PHILADELPHIA (AP) — SMU coach Tim Jankovich was a little apprehensive how his team would perform three days after earning its first national ranking of the season and three days before a highly anticipated showdown with No. 11 Cincinnati. Semi Ojeleye made sure he had nothing to worry about.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — SMU coach Tim Jankovich was a little apprehensive how his team would perform three days after earning its first national ranking of the season and three days before a highly anticipated showdown with No. 11 Cincinnati.
Semi Ojeleye made sure he had nothing to worry about.
Ojeleye scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead No. 25 SMU past Temple 66-50 on Thursday night for its seventh straight win.
"This was a scary game," Jankovich said. "I felt like our guys possibly played a little tight. . But Semi carried us tonight from the offensive end, which he's very capable of doing."
Sterling Brown added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Mustangs (21-4, 11-1 American Athletic Conference), who earlier in the week vaulted into the Top 25.
One of the hottest teams in the nation, SMU has won 17 of its last 18.
"It's great to get that recognition nationally," Ojeleye said. "We feel like we're a team that can win a national championship. But we have to stay focused on the bigger picture, no matter what our ranking is."
Shizz Alston Jr. scored 13 points to lead the Owls (13-12, 4-8), who saw a modest two-game winning streak snapped. Quinton Rose had 12 points and Daniel Dingle finished with 10.
Trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, Temple pulled within six with just under 8 minutes remaining. But Ojeleye answered with a big 3-pointer to stymie the Owls' rally.
Ojeleye, a Duke transfer, also fueled a 16-1 SMU run in the first half with 10 points during the spurt. He started it with a thunderous dunk while being fouled by Mark Williams, who was called for a flagrant on the play.
The Mustangs, ranked third nationally in scoring defense, held the Owls without a field goal for more than 9 minutes during that stretch. For the game, Temple shot 30.9 percent from the field while committing 16 turnovers.
"That's what got us to the ranking — playing our defense," Ojeleye said. "Tonight we didn't have the offensive flow we normally have. Being on the road is tough. We really hang our hat on our defense."
SMU: This is the fourth straight season in which the Mustangs have been ranked but they have bigger things in mind, hoping to win the AAC and get back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Despite a 25-5 overall record, SMU missed out on last season's Big Dance due to NCAA infractions.
Temple: The Owls missed a chance to beat a ranked team for the third time this season. Since a strong opening month, they have dealt with tough injuries to Josh Brown (out since mid-December) and Trey Lowe (out for the season) and are in danger of missing the postseason for just the third time in coach Fran Dunphy's 11-year tenure.
"We're running out of time now," Alston said. "Every game matters."
POUNDING THE BOARDS
Ranked third in the country in rebounding margin coming into the contest, the Mustangs again owned a big edge on the glass, outrebounding Temple by a 49-32 margin.
As he's been all season, Jankovich was proud of the effort his team showed in that department, especially because he has "just a bunch of wings" on the roster with no true inside players.
"Everyone's bought into it," he said. "And it's been of the big keys to our season."
SMU avoided its second straight upset loss at Temple. In last year's matchup at the Liacouras Center, the Owls were the first team in the country to beat SMU after the Mustangs started the season with a program-best 18 straight wins.
SMU: The Mustangs host No. 11 Cincinnati on Sunday with first place up for grabs in the conference. The Bearcats, unbeaten in the AAC, are the only team that has defeated SMU in league play this season.
Temple: The Owls begin a two-game trip at Memphis on Sunday afternoon.