LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Despite a tough season, Temple junior guard Will Cummings said his team expects to win every time it steps on the floor.
The Owls' chances should improve following Thursday night's 88-66 loss at No. 7 Louisville now that Temple (7-20, 2-13 American Athletic Conference) has finished a five-game stretch against ranked opponents, a first in school history.
The team's lone victory in February came during that brutal run of games, a 71-64 win against then-No. 23 SMU. The Owls have dropped 15 of 17 since New Year's Day, including an eight-game losing streak to start 2014.
Temple returns to Philadelphia for games against Houston and Central Florida before finishing the regular season at South Florida. Cummings, who led the Owls with 18 points and had six rebounds Thursday, said he is looking forward to getting back home. A perfect finish could move Temple out from the bottom of the AAC standings.
"We need to win those at home," Cummings said. "We need to win all those three to set ourselves up strong to go into the tournament and shock some people."
Quenton DeCosey added 17 points for Temple, but Louisville's pressure put the Owls on their heels early, Cummings said.
"They throw a lot of things at you that you have to be ready for. That's kind of what they did early in the game, got on a run and that threw us off our tempo. They took off from there," he explained.
Russ Smith had 24 points, moving into ninth place on Louisville's career scoring list. Montrezl Harrell added 21 and freshman Terry Rozier scored a career-high 19 for the Cardinals (24-4, 13-2), who capped a perfect February with their seventh straight victory.
The trio combined to shoot 25 of 34 from the field and nearly outscored Temple all by themselves.
After the Owls scored the opening basket, the Cardinals clicked off a 13-0 run that established their dominance. They were up 24-6 just more than 7 minutes into the game before Temple responded with a 7-0 spurt that cut the Louisville lead to single digits.
The Owls again pulled within nine on Cummings' baseline jumper with 5:34 left in the first half, the closest they would come the rest of the game. Smith and Cummings led their teams with 13 points each at the break as Louisville led 42-29 at halftime.
Louisville was even better in the second half, stretching its 67-47 lead with 9:55 left to 28 points in less than 2 minutes. The Cardinals' largest lead was 29 with 1:15 remaining before Temple scored the final seven points.
"They made a couple of great 3s in the second half that kind of got them some separation," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "There were two big 3s later in the first half, one off an inbounds play that really hurt us. We don't have that much margin for error so we really have to pay attention to detail."
Louisville held Dalton Pepper, Temple's lone senior and leading scorer at more than 17 points per game, to two points in the first 20 minutes. He finished with 10 points.
Despite routing Temple 82-58 in the earlier meeting, Louisville coach Rick Pitino stressed the importance of taking the Owls seriously because they followed that loss with the victory over SMU two days later.
The Owls were coming off Saturday's 82-79 overtime loss at Memphis, a game in which they offset 41 percent shooting by hitting 11 shots from 3-point range.
Temple shot 42 percent from the field in this one (24 of 57) but went 4 of 19 on 3s and had 17 turnovers to just nine for Louisville. The Cardinals shot 53 percent (32 of 60).
AP freelance writer Ed Peak contributed to this report.