The Temple Owls (11-10, 2-6) looked like a team dead in the water heading into Wednesday night’s matchup against the Memphis Tigers (15-6, 5-3).
Losers of six of their previous seven games, confidence was slim among a group which started the season an impressive 6-2, with wins over No. 25 Florida State and No. 19 West Virginia.
The season was not heading in the right direction as the Owls are now entrenched in the thick of American Conference play with just 10 games remaining. But the Owls might have just found the solution to their troubles in their convincing 77-66 win over the Tigers on Wednesday night in sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr.
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Alston scored 22 points on nine of 15 (60 percent) shooting for his third-straight 20 point game.
“He’s a good player,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said of Alston. “He’s pretty talented. He shoots deep threes, he’s got a nice hesitation crossover jumper, he can get by you — he’s got the full package and I’m impressed with him.”
After scoring just 63 points as a freshman, he’s scored 72 points in the Owls’ past three games and has surpassed teammate Obi Enechionyia (13.8 PPG) as the Owls’ leading scorer (14.2 PPG).
“Shizz is a player who constantly is growing, he’s growing right in front of our eyes,” senior forward Mark Williams said. “The thing I see that’s best improved is his poise. Whenever we get down in the shot clock or down in games, Shizz is managing games for us, making huge shots, shooting the ball really well. He’s playing huge for us.”
The Owls seem to always find a guard who can rally them down the stretch when times get tough. Recent examples of this have been Dionte Christmas, Khalif Wyatt and Quenton DeCosey who have all led the Owls to wins in January through March due to their dangerous scoring ability.
Alston seems up for the task and felt like the win over Memphis may be the start of a strong finish like the guards that proceeded him were able to put together.
“I know after we won in Brooklyn, we rallied about five or six in a row,” Alston said. “I feel like this game was like that, a game that will push us over the top.”
Up next for the Owls are two games on the road. They’ll face Houston (14-7, 5-4) on Saturday before heading to New Orleans to take on Tulane (4-16, 1-7) on Tuesday. Both games will air on the ESPN Network.