Temple gets back to back wins in first games without Khalif Battle
(PHILADELPHIA, PA) Facing two ivy league schools in Penn and Vanderbilt, Temple improved their record to 6-3 after defeating both. Lead guard Damian Dunn played incredible offensively, averaging 22.5 points on above 50% from the field throughout the two game stretch.
Temple started off hot against the Quakers, getting off to a 18-6 run right after the tipoff. The Owls looked to dominate this game from the perimeter, as they attempted a lot of threes and ran mostly 3-4 guard lineups.
Going into half, Penn went on a little run making the score 39-27 in favor of the Owls. Jake Forrester was dominating down below, taking over the pick and roll and getting great positioning on the Quaker big men. He finished the game with 21 points and nine rebounds, along with a steal and a block.
Jake Forrester (10) flexing on Griffin Ryan (34)
With both Khalif Battle and Tai Strickland out, freshman guard Jahlil White took over as the primary bench guard. His 6’8 frame makes him a force defensively, as he had three blocks including a rim-stuffer on Jelani Williams. On the other end, White had six points on 3-3 from the field along with two rebounds. A lot of the time White plays off the ball, and excels at back door cuts and drawing contact.
Point guard Jeremiah Williams finished with a fantastic all around game, totalling 12 points, five rebounds and five assists. The offense is run by him, as he is the primary decision maker at all times.
As for Penn, both Jordan Dingle and Michael Wang had 20+ points each, although offense wasn’t the issue. The Quakers allowed the Owls to get to the free throw line 25 times (converting on 19 of them) compared to Penn’s six attempts.
Temple won the defensive battle at Liacouras Center, computing five steals and eight blocks as a team. Penn had no way of scoring inside, shooting 52% from inside the line as opposed to Temple’s 65%. Even with defensive big Nick Jourdain only playing 15 minutes, the guards for Temple did a great job contesting shots inside.
Temple came out victorious 81-72, and made their way to Nashville, Tennessee to face off against the 5-2 Vanderbilt Commodores.
Guard Tai Strickland returned from his thigh injury and contributed greatly in the 72-68 overtime win. He finished with a team high 21 points along with seven rebounds and two blocks. With starting guard Quincy Ademokoya struggling offensively, Tai came in and provided a huge spark, getting to the line and converting on nine of 12 attempts from the charity stripe.
Although not shooting well, Jeremiah Williams had a credible game with 11 points, six assists and five rebounds. He also played a team high 42 minutes, showing just how much coach Mckie trusts him.
Temple held a lead on the Commodores throughout the game, shown as they went into halftime with a 28-25 advantage. Both teams were fouling frequently, as there were a total of 51 total calls during the game.
With three seconds left in the game Temple had a three point lead, as Vanderbilt missed a three. Jeremiah Williams fought for the rebound, but eventually the ball flew out of bounds, giving the Commodores another shot. Scottie Pippen Jr. found himself open in the corner, and nailed a fading three to send the game into overtime 58-58.
Jordan Wright, who finished with 16 points, scored the opening five in overtime giving Vanderbilt a quick lead. Temple fought back, getting to the line and converting on every opportunity. Running a four guard lineup of Damian Dunn, Jahlil White, Tai Strickland and Jeremiah Williams, Temple was able to outrun the Commodores and pressure them to take bad shots on the perimeter.
Damian Dunn hit a clutch three with 20 seconds remaining to give the Owls a four point lead, silencing the crowd in the Memorial Gymnasium. Dunn finished right behind Tai with 18 points on 5-12 from the field, along with seven rebounds.
Vanderbilt was not able to get any good looks from outside, shooting a horrific 4-26 from three. Although playing aggressive defense on Temple, they allowed Temple to attempt 37 free throws (making 30 of them) which ended up being the difference maker in the Owls win.
Tai Strickland (13) defending Scottie Pippen Jr. (2)
Accumulating two wins without top scorer Khalif Battle, it shows how much faith these players have in each other no matter who is able to suit up or not. Tai Strickland talked about this team's bond after the game stating, "Even though we are a young team, we all trust each other. That's the most important thing."
Improving their record to 6-3, Temple looks to keep this momentum going as they sit right around the middle of the AAC, not far behind teams like Houston (8-2) and Wichita State (7-2).