By Harry Allison
Semi Ojeleye scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead No. 25 SMU past Temple 66-50 on last night for its seventh straight win.
Sterling Brown added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Mustangs (21-4, 11-1American 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 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.”
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.”