For the first time in the history of Temple Men’s Basketball, they will face the same team in three consecutive games. Since facing off with South Florida on Feb. 21, Temple played them again on Feb. 24, had their next two games cancelled, and will soon play USF again in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on March 11 at 12 p.m.
The two cancelled games were supposed to take place on Feb. 27 at Central Florida and on March 6 against Wichita State.
Temple was originally slated to play Memphis on Feb. 21, but it was cancelled and USF picked up the open spot on Temple’s schedule for that date, which USF won 83-76. Temple then traveled to Tampa on Feb. 24, where this time they won by a score of 65-47.
Going into Thursday’s conference tournament matchup, Temple is seeded ninth and USF is the eighth. The winner will face the top-seeded Wichita State Shockers on March 12 at 12 p.m..
Wichita State defeated Temple on Feb. 7 by a score of 70-67.
Temple has to win four games in four days to guarantee a berth in the NCAA Tournament by winning the AAC Tournament.
“We want to reach that goal and we just have to take it one game at a time,” head coach Aaron McKie said.
If Temple wins their first two games they will face either Southern Methodist or Cincinnati in the semifinals on March 13. Temple has defeated both SMU and Cincinnati twice this season.
“USF is really talented with good guards,” senior forward JP Moorman said. “We must come prepared. But really it doesn’t matter who we play. We have to win four games to reach our goal in the end.”
That goal is making it to the NCAA tournament which starts on March 18. The NCAA announced in early January that the majority of the tournament will be held in Indianapolis at a rotation of six stadiums: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN), Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Indianapolis, IN), Mackey Arena (West Lafayette, IN), and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington, IN).
Moorman and fellow senior forward and captain De’Vondre Perry said sophomore guard Khalif Battle and freshman guard Jeremiah Williams will be key to Temple going into Thursday’s matchup.
Battle had a career-high 32 points against USF on Feb. 21 and had 22 points against USF on Feb. 24. On the season Battle is averaging 14.7 points a game.
Williams has had an excellent freshman season, averaging nine points a game.
“Williams surprised me a lot with both his productivity and maturity,” Perry said. “He could have a big impact in this tournament and we need it”.
Williams had 11 points on Feb. 24 against USF and nine on Feb. 21. Additionally, he also had a combined three steals and seven assists over those two games.