Pepper leads Temple past No. 23 SMU, 71-64
It's not that often that Larry Brown gets outcoached. On Sunday, he said he was by Fran Dunphy.
Playing without injured starter and leading rebounder in Anthony Lee, Temple (7-17, 2-10 American Athletic Conference) knocked a ranked opponent for the first time since March 10 against No. 21 VCU. The Owls were 0-5 against the Top 25 this season, but have now beaten a ranked team in each of the last seven seasons.
According to Pepper, Dunphy told his team after its loss at SMU last week that it was going to win the rematch.
''I don't know if coach is a psychic,'' Pepper said ''but after the game at SMU, he said we were going to win this game at home. In the three years I've been here, I've never heard him say that, and we came out and won.''
Dunphy was asked if Pepper's story was true, before quickly and dryly responding, ''I think Dalton tells stories out of school.''
Pepper, Temple's leading scorer this season, went 8 for 19 from the floor, just 2 for 9 from three and a perfect 6 for 6 from the free-throw line. Three other Owls - Will Cummings (13), Quenton DeCosey (13) and Mark Williams (10) -- finished in double figures.
Philadelphia native and former Villanova Wildcat Markus Kennedy scored 18 points for SMU while Nic Moore added 15.
SMU came into the game with the best rebounding margin in the conference, while Temple came in with the worst. But on Sunday, Temple managed to beat SMU, 38-25, on the glass, scoring 15 second-chance points off 12 offensive boards. Making matters worse, SMU went 14 of 26 from the foul line.
''It wasn't the free throws,'' said Brown, the former 76ers coach who was coaching his first game in Philadelphia since 2009. ''We got outcoached. Fran did a great job of creating matchup problems for us. They controlled the tempo, they made all the effort plays. ... We didn't have an offensive rebound in the first half, and we got four for the game. I think that was the most significant thing.''
Temple pulled off the upset and controlled the glass without its starting forward and the leading rebounder in the American, Anthony Lee. Lee suffered what's being called a ''minor left knee injury'' in Temple's loss to Louisville on Friday night. He was in uniform on Sunday, with his knee in a brace, but he did not take the floor.
He was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Mark Williams. With Lee unable to go, sophomore big man Devontae Watson, who averages only 11.8 minutes per game, played a career-high 25, scoring eight points and pulling down eight rebounds.
After falling behind 11-2 early, Temple took a 34-30 lead into the half. It was only the second time in the Owls' last 14 games they had a lead heading into the break. SMU did shoot 50 percent in the first opening 20 minutes, but made just 1 of 4 threes as Temple went 6 for 13 from behind the arc.
''I wouldn't minimize, if I were analyzing the game, Mark Williams' two three in the first half,'' Dunphy said. ''They're huge to get us back to where we had to go. He also made a great play -- we were struggling in the second half, we were down four or five, not really running any kind of offense - he makes a nice drive in the lane and throws a bullet to Devontae Watson, and he catches it.''
As for SMU (20-6, 9-4), all six of its losses have come on the road. The Mustangs had a four-game winning streak snapped at the end of what has been an eventful week for Brown's team. It started with SMU entering the AP rankings for the first time in 29 years. The Mustangs had their game at Rutgers pushed back from Thursday to Friday because of a winter storm in the northeast. They then made a short trip from Piscataway, N.J., to Philadelphia.
''With five minutes to go, we looked like we were 30 points down,'' Brown said. ''(Temple is) 1-10. They just got blown out by Louisville. And they looked like the team that was supposed to win. They had amnesia. And I think (Dunphy) does that.
''I wasn't real proud of myself tonight. I was real proud of Fran.''