PHILADELPHIA — USF may have been without starting guard Shemiye McLendon Thursday night, but Temple’s personnel issues ago way beyond just one player.
Behind 23 points from Victor Rudd, South Florida won its first game as a member of the American Athletic Conference, 82-75 over an injury-depleted Temple on Thursday.
After Temple’s Anthony Lee missed two free throws with his team trailing by three and 1:01 to play, Rudd hit a step-back jumper with 29 seconds left to give the Bulls (10-6, 1-2 American) a cushion down the stretch.
Rudd edged Lee (22 points) for the game-high in scoring and had 10 boards to finish with a double-double.
“I had to make that shot just because on the iso before, I turned it over,” Rudd said. “So if I want another shot like that, I’ve got to make that one.”
That turnover was one of the very few mistakes the Bulls made down the stretch.
Temple (5-8, 0-3) led by as much as 10 on three separate occasions — including twice after halftime — but could not pull away from USF. The Bulls took their first lead of the second half, 70-69, with six minutes to play after back-to-back threes from Musa Abdul-Aleem during a 16-3 run and didn’t trail again.
“I kept looking at the clock, and for most of the game it seemed like we were down 10,” USF coach Stan Heath said, “and some kind of way we made a run. ... We just made some timely threes. Musa didn’t make many shots tonight (3 for 10), but the two threes he made back-to-back I thought came at a critical time.
As for the injuries to Temple, “It helped us that we had more bodies than they did,” Heath added.
That’s because Temple was down to only seven bodies by game’s end. Already without sophomore Dan Dingle (torn meniscus) and freshman Mark Williams (sprained ankle), Temple lost its leading scorer this season when Will Cummings collided with USF’s John Egbunu on a pick 40 seconds into the game. Egbunu was called for the foul and Cummings stayed on the floor before heading to the locker room with 3:40 to play in the first.
Before the start of the second half, Cummings was announced to have concussion-like symptoms and did not return. That left Temple with only six scholarship players and a walk-on.
“It hurts us, obviously,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said, referring to Cummings’ absence. “He’s a good basketball player and we need his speed and quickness and leadership. But, he got hurt. There’s nothing you can do about it.
“We need to have as many guys healthy as we can, and right now we’re struggling with that.”
Prior to Cummings’ departure, Temple opened up a 10-point lead in the first half before USF rallied with an 11-1 run. The two teams entered the half knotted, 34-34. Rudd led all scorers at the break with 12 points, while Lee (11), Dalton Pepper (11), and Quenton DeCosey (10) accounted for all but one Temple basket, which belonged to Cummings.
As the game progressed, USF exploited Temple down low, winning the rebound battle, 40-30, and outscoring Temple in the paint, 50-30. Rudd and Egbunu finished with 21 combined boards.
Asked if the game was a must-win for a Bulls team that was previously winless in-conference, Rudd answered that it “most definitely” was before praising the Owls’ effort while shorthanded.
“They still played good for having seven players,” he said. “They’ve got three strong guards and then Lee in the middle is pretty good. I think they played well. They did enough to win the game. We just got over the hump.”
Lee, who finished with his sixth double-double this season, lamented the loss of another teammate to injury, calling the Owls’ ongoing health and depth issues, “heartbreaking, a little bit.”
Though it doesn’t do Dunphy’s team any good at this moment, prior to the game Temple confirmed the transfer of former Clemson guard and Philly native Devin Coleman. Coleman played 10 games for Clemson this season after missing the 2012-13 season with a torn Achilles tendon. Coleman will have a year and a half of eligibility remaining and will be available to play for Temple after the Fall 2014 semester.
In the meantime, whoever is healthy for Temple will host Memphis on Saturday as the Owls continue to look for their first win in the American Conference.
USF has the weekend off before visiting SMU on Wednesday.