By Sam Bush

In the old days — the 1990s passes for that — Temple used to play conference showdowns against teams like UMass and St. Joseph’s, and the result was sometimes memorable and sometimes eminently forgettable.

Such as Owl coach John Chaney’s threatened fistfight with UMass coach John Calipari.

At least Temple and UMass were in the same time zone.

These days, with Temple in the American Athletic Conference, its matchups often are with teams like SMU, which is coached by former Sixer coach and legend Larry Brown (photo above).

So, last night at the Liacouris Center, Markus Kennedy, a Philly native who played one season for Villanova, scored 21 points and Nic Moore hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:20 left to lead SMU past Temple 60-55.

Moore helped the Mustangs (13-4, 4-1 AAC) rally back from a 13-point hole in the second half to win their third straight game. Moore buried a jumper that pulled SMU within one and then hit a 3 in front of the bench that sent the fans into a frenzy. Led by Kennedy’s boosters, the SMU fans had fun all game pointing at and taunting the adjacent Temple student section.

Kennedy, a bruising 6-foot-9 junior forward, missed the first 10 games because he was declared academically ineligible for the first semester. Kennedy has averaged 8.2 starts off the bench and declined Brown’s offer to start him in front of his friends and family.

”He said, ‘Coach, keep it the way it is,”’ Brown said.

Brown is exceptionally tight with Villanova coach Jay Wright and the Mustangs practiced Tuesday on the Wildcats’ court. Wright even gave Kennedy a little pep talk, telling him to block out the distractions that can come with a return game and focus on winning.

”My mom, when I was younger, always told me don’t burn any bridges,” Kennedy said. ”I made sure I kept in contact with him. When I talked to coach Wright, there were no hard feelings. We laughed and we reminisced about some stuff. He said he was proud of me at how mature I’ve become.”

Jesse Morgan had 15 points and Quenton DeCosey scored 13 for the Owls (12-6, 3-2). The Owls have lost two straight after a six-game winning streak.

Temple has blown double-digit leads in both losses.

”We’ve got to play harder for 40 minutes,” Morgan said. ”We get up sometimes and lose it.”

Will Cummings, who averaged 13.6 points for the Owls, scored only one point in 27 minutes after suffering a strained muscle in his lower left leg against Tulsa.

”He tried his best to give his maximum effort,” Owls coach Fran Dunphy said.

The Owls struggled from all over the floor, making only 8 of 26 3-pointers, 7 of 12 free throws and were outrebounded 33-23.

Kennedy, who was 9 of 11 from the floor, and Moore helped the Mustangs storm back and avenge their upset loss last season in Philly.

Brown’s job with the 76ers was his longest with any team in his 37-year coaching career. He left to take the job at Detroit and led the Pistons to an NBA title in the first of his two seasons there before his brief stay in New York. He also won an NCAA title with Kansas in 1988.

”There’s no one better,” Kennedy said. ”I remember watching the ’30 for 30′ and Reggie Miller said coach Brown is a perfectionist in an imperfect sport. It makes sense.”


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