South Carolina wide receiver Kenneth ("Junior" or "J.R.") Hemingway went on local television this …
Last Men Standing
Temple coach Fran Dunphy was playing offense-defense with Jimmy McDonnell and Devontae Watson for most of the second half.
McDonnell was the offensive piece of the equation. And he had nine career points in four years coming into the game.
While McDonnell scored 10 points – exceeding the total for his entire career – it still wasn't enough for the Owls to win their first American Athletic Conference game in three tries.
The Bulls pulled away down the stretch for an 82-75 victory, erasing a 10-point second-half deficit and the night's feel-good story. The Owls also lost their third player in the last three weeks as point guard Will Cummings left the game with concussion-like symptoms, leaving just seven healthy bodies available.
"I guess it was pretty cool but it didn't end in a win, so not really that cool," said McDonnell, who added five rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes, of the best game of his career. "Coach just said if you're open, shoot it. Make good decisions."
Said Dunphy: "He played pretty well. There's a couple plays he would have liked to have back, but he made a couple threes which were big for him. He made a nice backdoor cut, made a nice layup. He gives you whatever he has."
The Owls lost a player for the third time in the last few weeks. Daniel Dingle suffered a knee injury in practice prior to the Jan. 1 conference opener against Rutgers, which he underwent surgery for on Monday. Mark Williams sprained an ankle against Central Florida Saturday and did not play on Thursday night, though was dressed and could have played in an emergency.
Then Cummings left Thursday night's game with 3:40 to go in the first half after a collision and did not return - all for a team which started the season with just 10 players.
Oh, and the Owls have to bounce back to face nationally-ranked Memphis – which just knocked off defending national champion Louisville - at home on Saturday.
"(Cummings' injury) hurts us, we need his speed and quickness and leadership," said Dunphy, who said Cummings will undergo the necessary testing to determine whether he can play Saturday. "We need to have more guys healthy and we're struggling with that. We're concerned about a lot of things at this point."
Temple is now 5-8 with losses in five of its last six games and has started its first season in the American with an 0-3 record. USF improved to 10-6, 1-2.
"It's heartbreaking a little bit," said junior center Anthony Lee, who finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds. "We know we don't have many bodies. It's a tough challenge. We're not making any excuses, but it is tough when you think of somebody else going down and you don't have many people to step up.
"We know our core guys on the court are trying to do what we can, but the injuries happen. … It takes away from any kind of depth, and we have to try to manage our aggression. We can't really pick up a lot of fouls. It's tough right now. There's nothing we can do about it but keep on playing and get wins and try to stay together."
How do the Owls stay together?
"Pray," said Lee. "We've got to do something, be tighter than ever. Jimmy played his best game tonight. It's forcing people to do what they haven't had to do and it will give them confidence. But there's only so many players we can go to."
Despite the injuries and short bench - walk-on Nick Pendergast saw the first meaningful action of his career - the Owls led 66-56 with 9:22 to go after Lee drained a three-pointer. But the Bulls quickly erased the deficit with a 16-3 run over the next 3:50.
Dalton Pepper stopped an 8-0 run with a three-pointer, but Musa Abdul-Aleem hit back-to-back threes to put South Florida ahead 70-69 with six minutes to play and Victor Rudd added a layup for a three-point lead.
The Owls closed within one on a few occasions, the last on a Quenton DeCosey three with 2:05 to play, but USF finished on a 7-1 run.
"I'm not saying we're unlucky, but things aren't falling our way right now," said Lee.
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