On Wednesday night, Temple Men’s Basketball pulled off what may be their biggest win of the season as March steadily approaches.
The Owls were looking to avoid three straight losses as they hosted the 2nd place Mustangs. An hour before tip off, starting guards Damian Dunn (ankle) and Jeremiah Williams (shoulder) were ruled out.
This meant the Owls were without their top three scorers (including Khalif Battle) against one of the top teams in the American Conference. Someone would have to step up and try to fill those shoes and on Wednesday night, that was Tai Strickland.
Strickland had a career high 27 points off the bench, with 21 of them coming in the second half. The redshirt sophomore spoke postgame about having to step up into a leadership role:
“I believe anybody can step up. Zach (Hicks) has stepped up, Jah (Jahlil White) has stepped up, Nick (Jourdain) stepped up. It was just my turn tonight.”
First Half Offensive Woes
The game started off slow for both squads, with the Owls missing their first seven 3 point attempts and finishing 2-14 from beyond. From the field, they only made 9 shots on 34 attempts, scoring just 22 points, the third lowest output in the first half this season.
The Owls were also out rebounded 24-18, and out assisted 5-3, and trailed by as much as 12 points in the game. Despite their poor offensive showing, the Owls stayed in this game with tough defense.
Their ability to close out on defense and contest shots has been the biggest team strength this season. It showed Wednesday night as SMU was only able to hit three of their twelve 3 point attempts in the first half, and just 4 of 17 for the game.
The Owls also forced six Mustang turnovers on defense.
Second Half Resurgence
Temple outscored SMU 42-29 in the second half of Wednesday night’s game. Tai Strickland as aforementioned led the comeback for the Owls, but he wasn’t alone. Freshman forward Nick Jourdain only had 9 points, but 7 of them came in the second half, including a deep three ball, one of only three 3pt baskets for Temple. Jourdain also had 12 total rebounds
The Owls improved their 2nd half shooting to 35% from 27% in the first. The Owls also out rebounded the Mustangs 25-21 in the second half.
Three point shooting was still an issue in the second half for the Owls, but without Dunn and Williams, it was expected. The Owls made up for it by drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line 21 times, hitting 17 of those shots.
The Owls only spent 53 seconds with the lead in the second half, and it happened to be the last 53 seconds of the game.
The Owls are now 14-9 on the season, with a 7-5 record in the AAC, and a 9-3 record at home. Temple is currently 5th in the AAC standings. They currently have a first round bye in the conference championship tournament in March.
Temple Men’s Basketball Head Coach Aaron Mckie wants to make sure his team isn’t looking too far ahead and are taking things one game at a time:
“We’re aware of it, but the thing for us now is Cincinnati. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing and it’s the next game. We don’t want to skip steps.”
The Owls look to go above .500 on the road, as they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats on Sunday at 2pm. The Owls defeated Cincy at home 61-58 back on January 25th.