Charlotte rallies, knocks off No. 15 Temple 74-64
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—Temple’s road dominance hit a detour. So did the 15th-ranked Owls’ hopes of an easy ride through the Atlantic 10.
Blame surging Charlotte and its speedy, sharp-shooting guard.
Derrio Green scored 26 points and Charlotte rallied for a 74-64 victory over Temple on Wednesday night that ended Owls’ six-game winning streak and created a logjam atop the league.
Entering with an 8-1 road record and known as one of the nation’s top defensive teams, the Owls (17-4, 5-1) couldn’t stop Green and couldn’t solve Charlotte’s 2-3 zone. With Lavoy Allen in foul trouble and Juan Fernandez struggling, Temple lost for only the second time in 15 games.
“You definitely have to bring your `A’ game, especially on the road,” said Ryan Brooks, one of Temple’s lone bright spots with five 3-pointers and 20 points. “Teams definitely excel at home and play their best basketball. This league is very competitive. A prime example was tonight.”
Frustrated by Charlotte’s trapping zone, Temple coughed up a 10-point first-half lead and shot 35 percent as Charlotte won its fourth straight.
Luis Guzman added a career-high 14 points and Allen had 12 points and 14 rebounds, but was limited to seven minutes in the second half.
“He kind of runs the show for us defensively,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “We needed him in the game much more.”
Freshman Chris Braswell added 14 of his 15 points in the second half and Boston College transfer Shamari Spears had 11 points and nine rebounds for the 49ers (15-5, 5-1), whose turnaround season has landed them in a first-place tie with Temple and idle Xavier.
Charlotte fans, starved for success after the program’s recent woes, swarmed the court after the signature win, cheering as coach Bobby Lutz told the crowd over the loudspeaker that the Niners were back.
“I hope so,” Lutz said. “It’s just fun being in the fight again.”
Just 11-20 a year ago and without an NCAA tournament appearance since 2005, the 49ers have returned to prominence behind a trio of newcomers that includes the speedy Green. The junior college transfer hit four 3-pointers, the last with 33 seconds left that ended Temple’s comeback hopes.
“He’s been better than I thought. I’m not going to lie to you,” Lutz said. “And his best basketball is still ahead of him. He’s fun to watch and he’s so quick and he can shoot it. He’s hard to guard and it’s fun to be a part of watching him grow already as a sophomore.”
Green’s driving layup with 7:02 remaining gave the 49ers their first lead. It came with Fernandez, the Owls’ point guard, sitting on the end of the bench with a towel draped over his head, after being a game-time decision with concussionlike symptoms.
When the 49ers took a 54-51 lead on Braswell’s bucket with 5:29 left, Dunphy called a timeout and Fernandez checked in.
It didn’t help. The 49ers played stifling interior defense while getting looks in transition. DiJuan Harris’ acrobatic, behind-the-head pass in traffic to Braswell for a layup put Charlotte ahead 58-51 with 3:32 left.
Fernandez’s first field goal, a 3-pointer with 2:36 left, cut the 49ers’ lead to 60-56. But Green’s 3 set off a confetti-filled celebration at Halton Arena.
Green continued his success against top teams. He scored 20 in an upset of Louisville and 31 in a loss to Georgia Tech.
“I guess I just shoot it better when I see the number beside their name,” said Green, who played last season at Gulf Coast Community College in Florida.
Temple raced to a 7-0 lead and Brooks hit four of his first six 3-point attempts. Scootie Randall then made two straight to put the Owls ahead 28-18.
Charlotte stayed in the zone and responded with a 10-1 run capped by Green’s fadeaway, before Guzman’s 3 put the Owls up 32-28 at halftime.
The Owls, who hit 11 of 35 3-pointers, failed to take command of the conference in their first loss since falling to Kansas on Jan. 2.
Charlotte, which won at Louisville when it was ranked, last beat two ranked teams in the same season the year it last made the NCAA tournament.
“This year, unlike last year, we have so many pieces,” Spears said. “I think that’s what makes this team special.”