Enechionyia lifts Temple into title game with 88-74 win
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Obi Enechionyia felt Temple was itching to get going at the Charleston Classic. That been evident in its run to the tournament finals.
Enechionyia had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Owls into the tournament title game with an 88-74 victory over the Tigers. Temple’s season-opening game was a win over Old Dominion here Thursday as they eased into a long starting stretch that doesn’t see them play a home game until Wisconsin on Dec. 6.
“I think it showed that we’re ready to play in both games,” Enechionyia said. “It wasn’t a big deal to us, but I think it kind of helped us.”
Temple (2-0) pulled away late from their Southeastern Conference opponent to move back into its second Charleston finals. And they may get the chance to avenge a loss to Clemson in that 2008 championship game — the Clemson Tigers face Hofstra for the other spot in Sunday night’s title contest.
“It’s exciting,” Enechionyia said. “It’s like last year in the preseason NIT.”
That’s where Temple won the NIT Season Tip-Off event with an 81-77 victory over West Virginia in 2016. Temple coach Fran Dunphy hopes his team can channel those good experiences from last year this time around.
“Three games in four days, that’s a lot of basketball,” he said. “We need some rest.”
Auburn will play the Hofstra-Clemson loser Sunday — the tournament takes a college football break Saturday — for third place.
Temple trailed the Tigers (2-1) on Jared Harper’s basket with 10:17 to go. Shizz Alston Jr. hit a 3-pointer to put the Owls back in front — the ball hit off the rim, bounded high in the air before falling through — and Enechionyia gave them the lead for good with a pair of foul shots moments later. Auburn made one last charge when Mustapha Heron’s 3 pulled the Tigers to 70-67. But Quinton Rose followed with a 3-pointer and Auburn never caught up.
Rose finished with 19 points off five 3-pointers. Alston had 18 points, 11 in the second half, for Temple.
Anfernee McLemore led Auburn with 19 points, but he also picked up a technical at a crucial juncture. His foul against Temple came from holding onto the rim for too long after a dunk and allowed Temple to quickly move back in front on Alston’s two foul shots when McLemore had tied things at 48-all.
McLemore said the players ran out of gas down the stretch. “We just have to stay focused,” he said. “We had mental lapses in the second half.”
It was Enechionyia’s first double-double of the season and fourth of his career.
Auburn: When the Tigers show up cold from the outside, it could be a long game. Auburn hit just 3 of 18 3-pointers in the opening half and the Tigers were generally off target throughout the first 20 minutes. Mustapha Heron was 1 of 9 including 0 of 4 from behind the arc. DeSean Murray and Bryce Brown were each 1 of 7. The numbers improved some in the second half (5 of 15 from three), but Tigers will have to find a better balance if they hope to compete in the Southeastern Conference.
Temple: The Owls were continually caught flat-footed by Auburn’s guards, who found ways to get to the basket early — even if the Tigers could not find the basket. Temple picked up its defense in the second half to pull away from the Tigers.
Auburn has picked up four technical fouls in two games.
THREES A PLENTY
Neither team was particularly crisp from long range. Temple hit 10 of 26 3-pointers (38.6 percent) while Auburn finished just 8 of 33 from behind the arc (24.8 percent). “We could’ve gotten better looks,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “We didn’t get to the foul line in the second half which was real key.”
Auburn will play the Clemson-Hofstra loser on Sunday for third place.
Temple will face either Clemson or Hofstra for the tournament championship Sunday night.
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