Pepper leads Temple past No. 23 SMU, 71-64
Larry Brown has had a lot of success in Philadelphia.
But on Sunday, his No. 23 SMU Mustangs took a clear step back, one that could drop them the national polls just as quickly as they arrived.
Despite 18 points from Markus Kennedy, SMU was upset, 71-64, by Temple.
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 poll 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. All six of SMU's losses this season have come on the road.
''We didn't stay at the Ritz on the Four Seasons. We've been on the road six days, and I think we have $41,'' Brown joked. ''But I don't want to use that as an excuse.''
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.''
Perhaps more impressive than the numbers themselves was that Temple managed to control 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.
Instead, the Owls got a game-high 24 points from senior swingman Dalton Pepper. It's Temple first win over a top-25 opponent since March 10 of last year against No. 21 VCU. The Owls were 0-5 against the Top 25 this season, but have now beaten a ranked opponent 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.''
''I just felt like, at the time, we were going to be OK at some point,'' he added. ''I just threw that thought out to our guys. It was a lucky call by any stretch.''
Brown, who spent plenty of time overlapping with Dunphy in Philadelphia, lauded his counterpart.
''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.''
The Mustangs now have to recover in time for a home matchup and in-state rivalry game with Houston on Wednesday.