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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - B.J. Holmes' basket off a missed shot with 18 seconds left thwarted a Temple comeback as the #21/20 Owls dropped a 54-51 decision to Texas A&M. The loss to the Aggies came in the fifth-place game of the Old Spice Classic held at HP Field House inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Sunday morning.
Holmes' bucket, a weak side rebound and lay-in off a Dash Harris miss, was just the second field goal for Texas A&M over the final 13:45 and put the Aggies ahead, 52-51. The Owls brought the ball up the court and promptly called timeout to set up the final play.
Junior Juan Fernandez inbounded the ball and then took the ball back in the left corner, launching his trademark three-point shot. The 2010 Atlantic 10 three-point percentage leader, who had struggled all season from the perimeter (4-23 3pt), missed with the rebound being pulled in by Khris Middleton. He proceeded to convert two free throws with 2.6 seconds to play.
"We wanted to get it back in his hands, but we could not predict he would be that cleanly open," Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said on coming out of the timeout. "He shot a good shot, but it just did not go in the basket."
Sophomore Rahlir Jefferson's long inbounds pass was not controlled by sophomore Khalif Wyatt to end the Owls chances.
Wyatt, who had his third solid game off the bench, was instrumental in Temple's comeback. Trailing 42-29 following a Naji Hibbert (12 points) trey with 13:46 remaining, Dunphy shook things up with the insertion of Wyatt and freshman Aaron Brown. Wyatt proceeded to score all nine of his points in a 20-6 run that game the Owls a 49-48 lead.
The Norristown High product drained a three-pointer a minute after his insertion for the first second half basket by an Owl. Brown, who saw his first extended action in a tightly-contested game, followed with a trey of his own to cap a 9-0 TU run, cutting the deficit to four, 42-38.
Temple's defense, which has been stellar all season, clamped down during this 12-minute stretch. The Owls forced five turnovers and held the Aggies without a field goal (0-10) until a David Loubeau (13 points) jumper gave A&M a 50-49 lead.
"I was proud of our guys that we came back and took the lead again but we did not play as solidly as we needed to play all game long against a good basketball team," Dunphy aid.
Moore was then fouled going to the basket, and his two free throws allowed Temple to regain the lead with 53 seconds to play.
The Owls struggled offensively in the first half as well. Temple went nearly seven minutes without a field goal, seeing its 15-8 lead flip-flop courtesy of a 17-3 A&M run that made it 25-18. Brown, who had a career-high six points, stopped the bleeding with his first collegiate three-pointer. He then made a nice pass to a cutting Lavoy Allen for a lay-up to cut the deficit to 25-23.
Texas A&M then ran off five straight points before a Micheal Eric jumper ended the half with Temple trailing (30-25) for the first time all season.
A strong rebounding team, the Aggies dominated the backboard, out-rebounding the Owls, 45-30. A&M also grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, which led to a 16-7 advantage in second chance points.
"Second chance points is what hurt us, and certainly the last rebound they got," Dunphy said. "We had worked hard to get that missed shot and Holmes came up with a nice play."
Temple shot a season-low 31.3 percent from the field (25% from three-point range).
Allen and Fernandez led the Owls with 10 points each.
Temple held an opponent under 60 for the fifth straight game, one shy of the modern day record of six straight games holding a foe under 60 to a start set by the 1962-63 squad.
The Owls next travel to Mount Pleasant, Michigan for a Wednesday night game (7:00 p.m./1210 AM WPHT) against Central Michigan.