NEW YORK (AP) Obi Enechionyia had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead Temple to an 81-77 upset of No. 19 West Virginia in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday.
Enechionyia scored 18 of his 22 in the first half for Temple (4-2), but it was his free throw with one second left that sealed the early season tournament championship. Alani Moore II added 18 points for the Owls, while Daniel Dingle had 15 and Quinton Rose 12.
Despite having four players finish in double-digit scoring, West Virginia (4-1) lost for the first time this season. Ahmad led the Mountaineers with 19 points, Teyvon Myers added 15, and Nathan Adrian and Tarik Phillip had 13 apiece.
The 71st meeting between the programs saw Temple enjoy a 45-25 advantage at halftime thanks to two extended stretches in which the Owls held the Mountaineers scoreless.
Following Phillip’s layup 1:29 into the game, West Virginia did not score for 5:28 until Adrian’s layup at 13:09. During that stretch, the Owls outscored the Mountaineers 13-0. Then, after Ahmad’s layup with 5:28 left in the half, Temple scored the next nine points until Phillip knocked down a 3 to cut the deficit to 38-23.
The Owls held West Virginia to 32.3 percent shooting from the field – including 27.3 percent from 3-point range – in the first half. Temple also forced West Virginia into 11 first-half turnovers.
Trailing by 20, West Virginia ratcheted up its trademark press defense in the second half. After Phillip drilled a 3 in front of the Mountaineers’ bench, causing Temple coach Fran Dunphy to call timeout with 11:31 left, West Virginia was credited with nine forced turnovers in 8 1/2 minutes.
The timeout did not stem West Virginia’s tide, as the Mountaineers scored 13 of the next 17 points to take a 65-64 lead. It was their first advantage since opening the game on a 7-0 run. An Ahmad layup pushed the advantage to 67-64.
But Temple would not go away.
The Owls took a 75-71 lead on the strength of an 11-4 run spanning 2:36. Moore made four free throws in the stretch, and Rose added two free throws and a jumper.
The final 4:44 saw Moore play a pivotal role. The 5-foot-10 guard grabbed three rebounds and made two free throws to set the stage for Enechionyia.
Enechionyia was named the Most Outstanding Player of the two-day tournament. He was selected for the All-Tournament team along with Dingle, Ahmad, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon and Illinois’ Malcolm Hill.
Temple: Two strong performances against Top 25 teams can only bode well for Dunphy’s team once American Athletic Conference play begins.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers’ first four games were blowout victories. Being forced to play a possession-by-possession game in the second half could benefit West Virginia over the course of the season.
Temple: The Owls beat the No. 25 and No. 19 teams in the nation on consecutive days. That may be enough for them to sneak into the Top 25.
West Virginia: A four-point loss to an unranked team should not cause West Virginia to drop out of the Top 25.
Temple: The Owls came into the game having defeated No. 25 Florida State a day earlier. The win allowed Temple to extend its streak of defeating a Top 25 team to 10 years in a row.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers entered the game leading the nation with 13.7 steals and 27 forced turnovers per game. Their 15.7 turnover margin was also best in the nation.
Temple: Visits Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday.
West Virginia: Hosts Manhattan on Monday.