Temple’s 44 point Second Half wasn’t enough as the Owls fall to USC 76-71
Damian Dunn (1) and Zach Hicks (24) helping Khalif Battle (0) up from a fall
(PHILADELPHIA, PA) The first ten minutes of the game looked very promising for Temple, as they were going shot for shot with the former Elite 8 team. Once the score hit 18-17 with eight minutes left in the half, turnovers became the name of the game for Temple’s offense. First came one from Khalif Battle, then Jake Forrester, then Jeremiah Williams, and in the blink of an eye the score was 31-17.
While the momentum was completely in favor of the Trojans, the redshirt sophomore Tai Strickland hit a contested mid range shot, which gave Temple a little bit of hope. For the second straight game, the Owls were held to under 30 points in the first half, as they went into the locker room down 46-27.
When asked about what was talked about down 19 in the locker room, coach Aaron Mckie said “We got undisciplined defensively, I love the aggression but I told them defensively we have to stay disciplined as I feel we can guard these guys. Offensively we have to move the ball… and at the end of the day you have to put the ball in the hole.”
One of the biggest aspects Coach McKie emphasized was foul trouble. Jeremiah got into early foul trouble which messed up the normal rotation, and both Sage and Khalif finished the game with four personals. Although being aggressive in the second half, Nick Jourdain fouled out of the game, as Temple overall had 24 fouls.
The first couple minutes of the second summed up everything Temple did wrong in the first perfectly. They didn’t have good shot selection, and allowed USC to continue controlling the clock. With 15 minutes left and being down by 20, Damian Dunn picked Isaiah Mobley’s pocket leading to a Khalif Battle three, and the crowd finally got engaged.
Feeding off the crowd's energy, they got a big defensive stop, leading to a Zach Hicks three on the other end. Temple cut the lead to 14, forcing Andy Enfield to call a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Temple didn’t let off the gas and continued cutting the lead. From a Sage Tolbert III dunk, leading to a Khalif Battle dunk two possessions later, Temple was red hot.
Zach Hicks made a major block on forward Isaiah Mobley, finishing the game with just nine points on 40% shooting. After getting locked up the entire possession, the ball was put into Khalif’s hands to get a bucket, and he nailed a contested three five feet behind the arc. The lead was cut to just seven, and USC was forced to use another timeout.
For the first time in Coach McKie’s coaching career, the stadium was overflowing with energy. Mckie talked about how much of an impact the fans had on this late run by stating, “(The energy from the fans) was great, it made me feel good just to hear it. That was really my first time hearing Liacouras that loud, it was really cool for me to hear it and the guys to hear it.”
Temple kept up with the Trojans high powered offense by shutting down starters Boogie Ellis and Isaiah Mobley, and cut the lead down to four with 50 seconds left. Zach Hicks played a crucial role in this comeback, as in just his second career game with Temple never left the court in the last eight minutes of the game. Coach McKie was very impressed with Hicks performance, as he should be getting starter-type minutes for the rest of the season.
The lengthy forward is highly praised by his teammates, especially Nick Jourdain and Khalif Battle as they are all from the Jersey area. Being roommates at Temple, Khalif said, “Zach is great, he’s a positive guy... another guy who every time I walk into the gym he’s right there.”
In the closing moments, Temple lost the game at the free throw line. Overall they shot a horrible 53.6% from the line, missing out on 13 easy points. After senior Drew Peterson got sent to the line, he ended the Owls hopes of a miraculous comeback, and ended the game with a 76-71 win in the Liacouras Center.
Throughout the first half, Temple had no answer for the paint presence from forward Chevez Goodwin. He ended the half with nine points, and was scoring at will with his right hook. He finished the game with 19 points and eight rebounds, and led the Trojans to outscore Temple in the paint 42-20.
Lead guard Khalif Battle held the offensive load for Temple, as he finished with a team high 26 points on 17 shots. Starting shooting guard Damian Dunn who averaged 13.5 points last season struggled from the field, shooting 2-9 from the field and only scoring eight total points.
"I think we just lost the game on the free throw line and I will be the first one to hold myself accountable" Khalif said, as the starting five shot 11-21 from the line, including Jeremiah Williams shooting 0-4 from the charity stripe.
A player that played very impressively throughout the game was guard Tai Strickland. When the team was struggling, he kept the energy up and converted on some tough looks. Tai was everywhere defensively, as he looked like former Baylor point guard Davion Mitchell on the court. He finished with nine points and two rebounds in just 16 minutes.
Tai Strickland (13) attempting a layup over Ethan Anderson (20)
Sophomore forward Nick Jourdain struggled in the first half, as he had two personal fouls and didn’t convert from the field, yet bounced back very well after halftime. Once he got his first steal on Isaiah Mobley early in the second, he didn’t look back. He recorded three steals and two blocks in just the second half, and did a great job of protecting the paint, something the Owls struggled with in the first.
“Competing with the guys at practice, Jake, Emmanuel and Sage, they push me with their toughness every single day, pushing me around, eventually I learned to push back.” Jourdain said regarding his hot start defensively.
Although playing the second most minutes on the team with 29, Sage Tolbert only scored four points on 2-8 from the field. On both his three point attempts, his form looked very shaky as he was wide open from the corner on both attempts. His defensive intensity is there, but with being a career 25% three point shooter, Coach McKie shouldn’t expect him to be taking threes late in the game.
For being a defensive minded team, it was frustrating watching USC shoot 60% in the first half as opposed to Temple’s 31%. What was even worse was Temple started the game 0-4 from three, and ended the half 1-10. Overall the team had a true shooting percentage of just 46.5%, which compared to USC's 54.5% lost them the game.
Continuing this home stretch to start the year, Temple tips off against the 2-0 Clemson Tigers Thursday, November 18th at 4:30 eastern time.