BUFFALO, NY — A plane malfunction couldn’t slow the Temple. Neither could the UB Bulls.
A pair of sophomores led the way as the Temple Owls defeated University of Buffalo Bulls, 54-39 in non-conference action at Alumni Arena, Wednesday night.
Anthony Lee sparked the Owls to an early 11-point advantage. The sophomore forward took an inbound pass from fellow classmate Will Cummings and finished with a dunk for the first points of the game and the Owls never looked back. Lee followed two minutes later with a layup. A jump hook from the right side of the lane, and the Owls led 6-2.
After a Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson free throw, Cummings drove from left to right and finished in traffic.
“It was a hard-fought game, a very physical game,” said Temple head coach, Fran Dunphy. “I thought they (UB) had a lot of open looks in both halves that didn’t go down for them.”
With Temple staked to a 9-2 lead, Khalif Wyatt took over from there swiping a steal under the basket and starting the break completed at the other end by Scootie Randall.
Wyatt hit a fade-away jumper just outside the lane for a 13-2 bulge.
Tony Watson and Auraum Nuiriankh kept the Bulls close with a pair of threes.
“It obviously wasn’t a beauty contest,” said UB head coach Reggie Witherspoon. “Shooting wasn’t great. There were a fair number of turnovers by both teams. In order for us to succeed, we were going to have to win it in a blue collar way, and we’re not ready to confront in a physical way.”
The Owls attack was relentless. Hollis-Jefferson hit a pair from the free throw line. Quenton DeCosey scored on a three-on-one. Hollis-Jefferson hit two more charity tosses, and the Owls had their largest lead of the half at 24-8
Buffalo scored six straight. Cameron Downing finished a reverse layup. Watson threw in a pair from the line when Hollis-Jefferson was assessed a flagrant one foul. Jarod Oldham and Javon McCrea worked a pick and roll on the right side with McCrea scoring in traffic. UB traqiled 24-14.
DeCosey hit a runner off the glass, and Jake O’Brien stepped out and connected on a catch-and-shoot three. Lee put bookends on the half scoring on an assist from Wyatt at the top of the key as Temple took a 31-16 lead into the half.
The Bulls never closed the gap to single digits in the second half as both teams shot less than 36 percent for the game.
Lee finished with 10 points on five-of-eight shooting from the field.
Cummings played a career-high 34 minutes and responded with a career-high eight points.
Lee and Hollis-Jefferson each had a game-high seven rebounds.
Despite scoring just four points in the first half, UB’s leading scorer, McCrea, finished with a game-high 14. The junior forward entered play averaging 17 per night.
“Our wings did a good job of pinching in and avoiding some of those quick post feeds,” Dunphy said when asked about how his team slowed McCrea. “If you watch them on film, Oldham to McCrea is a very good combination. McCrea is really tough down there. He’s got a great feel for his body.”
Temple originally planned to fly into Buffalo on Tuesday night. When an engine problem was discovered, the Owls were forced to do all their traveling on Wednesday.
The Owls improve to 4-0 with the win. The Owls host Wagner this Saturday.
Buffalo falls to 2-6. The Bulls play at St. Bonaventure, Saturday night.