Sunday was Senior Day at the Liacouras Center, as Temple Men’s basketball (17-11, 10-7 AAC) defeated the South Florida Bulls. (8-22, 3-15 AAC) The win was much needed for the Owls, as it secures the 4th seed and a first round bye in the American Conference Championship Tournament.
With today’s win, the Owls also improved their record at the Liacouras Center this season to 11-3, their best home stretch since the 2018-19 season.
The Owls were coming off a rough outing on the road against American Conference leader Houston. In the 84-46 loss on Thursday, the Owls shot just 31 percent for the game, and scored 23 points in each half.
Men’s Basketball Head Coach Aaron Mckie spoke on the stark contrast in the offense between Thursday and today:
“I thought that this was one of our best games of sharing the ball for 40 minutes. That’s a fun way to play the game of basketball, when you’re sharing the balI. It opened up driving lanes for us, we got quality looks from the 3 point line.”
First Half Recap:
Once the Owls captured their first lead of the game at 10-8, they wouldn’t look back, holding the edge over South Florida for the rest of the game. The Owls at one point lead by 13 points in the opening half.
However, it’s on the defensive side where the Owls display their biggest strength. The Owls are holding opponents to an average of 67 points a game, 5th best in the conference. South Florida could only muster up 26 first half points on 32% shooting. The Owls were able to score 37 points on 41 percent from the field.
The Owls got a late-half boost from their bench, accounting for 11 of the 37 first half points. Most of that came from freshman forward Zach Hicks. The Camden product had 9 first half points (2nd most behind Dunn), with 7 rebounds. It’s expected that Hicks will have more of a role in his sophomore season. He will be ready for the responsibility:
“I’m pretty confident, I know that every time in practice, Dame [Dunn] and those guys are hard on me about rebounding. Earlier in the year, I wasn’t that good of a rebounder early in the year, but I’m 6’8, I gotta put my head down and get rebounds.”
Second Half Rout:
In the final half of the regular season, the Owls made sure to put away the last place Bulls. The Owls outscored South Florida 38-21 in the second half. The bench for Temple outscored USF’s bench 20-5 in the final twenty minutes.
Redshirt Sophomore Damian Dunn was the only player to reach double digits points (13) in the second half for either team. He finished with 27 points altogether, and had a career-high 9 rebounds in the win.
The Owls’ starting guard realizes scoring isn’t everything in
“[There’s] a lot of things I bring to the table, just besides that side of the ball. Just making guys better is something that I’ve really been trying to work on. And with that role, comes a lot of attention and I think I’ve made the proper adjustments night in and night out.”
Being led by Dunn, the Owls shot 37% from the field in the second half. They also made twelve free throws on fifteen attempts. There was also a huge gap in 3 point percentage between both teams. The Owls shot 46 percent from beyond, compared to 10% from South Florida.
As mentioned earlier, today was Senior Day, as the 2022 academic senior class was honored. Forwards Arashma Parks, Sage Tolbert III & Jake Forrester, and guards Tai Strickland & Colin Daly were honored as graduating seniors.
Sunday was also Hooter T. Owl’s birthday. Mascots of major Philadelphia sport franchises, their affiliate teams and local colleges were at the Liacouras Center to celebrate.
Up next for the Owls is a trip to Fort Worth, Texas and the 2022 American Athletic Conference Championship. They play #5 seed Tulane for a 3rd time this season. Both teams split their two regular season matchups, with the home team winning each time.
Their quarterfinal matchup takes place Friday, March 11.