(PHILADELPHIA, PA) With just over three minutes remaining, the South Florida Bulls had a 13 point lead over the Owls, and this game looked to be just about over. Yet senior transfer Brendan Barry had other thoughts in mind. Following four straight free throws from sophomore Khalif Battle, Barry proceeded to get three straight looks from downtown, and knocked all of them in. The lead was cut to just 2 with 1:10 left in the game, and all momentum was shifted in favor of the Owls.
Then came the free throw battle. Jeremiah Williams attacked to the basket down by four, and caused an and-1 situation. Unfortunately, he missed the free throw down two, and David Collins of USF was sent to the line. He missed, and with just five seconds left, Temple grabbed the rebound and was out running.
Khalif Battle crossed half court, and looked ready to attack the basket. While the whole team was rushing to get a shot off, Battle with just one second left dribbled the ball off his right foot, leading to USF picking the ball up, and ending the game with a 73-71 loss for Temple.
Although the final possession didn’t go as planned, the game didn’t have to come down to that. The most crucial play of the game came with 26 seconds left, as David Collins missed a floater with Temple down two. Three Temple players just let the ball bounce right into the hands of Jamir Chaplin for the offensive rebound, and the Bulls got an easy layup. Temple did everything right defensively that possession, yet just by missing one rebound, changed all the momentum of the game.
In the 8 versus 9 matchup, everyone expected a great game, as this was the third game in a row Temple had faced the Bulls. The Owls have been on a COVID delay, and was not able to finish the season as planned. This was Temple’s first game played since February 24th, which was an 18 point victory over USF.
Statistics wise, Khalif Battle proved why he is the future of this team. He finished with 18 points on 4-14 shooting, yet a perfect 8-8 from the line. He added ten rebounds and five assists, and showed aggression on the defensive side of the ball with two blocks and one steal. Brendan Barry only shot the ball three times, all being within the last three minutes, as he finished with 11 points off the bench. Freshman leading scorer Damian Dunn also attributed 11 off the bench, shooting 4-11 and added three assists.
For the Bulls, leading scorer David Collins had a fantastic game, ending with 23 points on just under 50% from the field. He was one of just three USF players in double digits, as Jamir Chaplin brought 12 off the bench, and Michael Durr had 11 points and 11 rebounds. If the Bulls are going to compete against one seed Wichita State tomorrow, they are going to have to shoot better than 60% from the charity stripe.
As for Temple, this was a tough way for seniors Brendan Barry, J.P. Moorman, and Dre Perry to finish this season. Although the team was very young and inexperienced, the leadership that these seniors provided will forever be appreciated. Freshman Jeremiah Williams, Damian Dunn and Nick Jourdain all played valuable minutes, and although are very good players, have a ways to go if they are going to be competitive. Temple struggled this season in late game situations due to their age and experience levels compared to their competition.
One positive about this game for Temple was how limited their turnover count was. They ended the game with just ten, which is barely over half of their season average. The big turnover came in the last possession, but it will be a learning experience for the team's leading scorer Khalif Battle.
Along with limiting turnovers on the offensive side, the Owls played very aggressive on the defensive side. They finished with eight blocks, and held the Bulls to just 39% from the field and 27% from three. USF got to the line more than Temple, due to the 22 fouls committed by the Owls, most of them coming in the bottom of the second half.
Temple had a great progressing season for their young players, and led by Coach McKie they are on the uprise. I am looking forward to seeing these freshman and sophomores gel even more throughout the off season. With the amount of delays they had due to COVID, hopefully they can play a full season next year with no setbacks.
Finishing the season with a 5-10 record, and 9th in the AAC, Temple had a crazy year. Unfortunately, the season go as planned, but this Owls team is very young and will continue getting better every year.