Temple Men’s Basketball Falls to 1-1 after Valiant 2nd Half Effort

On Saturday night, Temple men’s basketball fell 76-71 to the USC Trojans, a team that reached the Elite 8 in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Owls were coming off of a season opening victory against the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks, 72-49. A common theme of each game has been a slow first half offensively, followed by a strong surge on both sides of the floor in the second.

First Half Woes

In the first half of Saturday night’s ballgame, the Owls were outscored 46-27. Three point shooting was an issue in the first half for the Owls, as they went a measly 1-10 from beyond. At the mid point of the half, the Owls had a scoring drought of four minutes and seven seconds, while the Trojans were on a 13-0 run. In the last 3:18 of the half, there was another field goal drought, with a couple of Damian Dunn and Jahlil White free throws made in between.

The Owls were also outscored in the paint, 28-8. The bench was outscored 12-7, and the Trojans had another 12 points from Temple turnovers. Temple Head Coach Aaron Mckie spoke on his team’s sloppy play on both sides of the floor:

We got undisciplined defensively, trying to go for steals, getting ourselves in foul trouble. That opened the middle of the floor up for them, opened the paint up for them to get easy baskets. On the offensive side…we’ve got to move the ball, at the end of the day you got to put the ball in the hole.

Fouling was another key issue early on with 15 personal fouls called in the first half alone, more than the 14 called in the entire season opener. Sophomore guard Khalif Battle was asked about his squad’s fouling trouble postgame, taking accountability over blaming the officials:

Nah it’s never the official’s fault, they’re just doing their jobs just like we got to do our jobs. They call the game how they saw it. They’re professionals in what they do and we’re just going to continue to play hard….we’re not going to dial back our aggression.

That aggression would prove to greatly benefit the Owls in the second half, coming out of the break as a completely different team.

Second Half Resurgence

In a game where the Trojans had a 19 point lead, and led by as much as 23 points, the Owls decided to make it a contest in the 2nd half. In contrast to the Trojans 13-0 run in the first half, the Owls would have a 13-0 run of their own. That run showcased a little bit of everything, a block, a steal, a fast-break dunk and 2 tough 3pt shots from Khalif Battle & Tai Strickland.

That sequence would last for nearly four minutes, and the Liacouras Center came unglued for all of it. The announced attendance was a little more over 5,300, but it sounded as if it were a sold out building. It was first time that many of the players on a young Temple roster got to experience a crowd quite like that in a big game feel. Khalif Battle spoke on the experience, after having to play in his entire freshman season in front of no fans at home:

“The fans definitely made a difference, I’m really happy they came out. I hope we gave them a pretty exciting show & showing of what we can be. The more they come, the better we’ll be.

The Owls’ boost offensively in the second half can be attributed to them making key stops on the other end of the floor. The Trojans were held to just 30 points in the second half, while shooting just 9-27. Despite Temple’s best efforts, Isiah Mobley and Ethan Anderson hit clutch shots down the stretch. USC’s lead was cut down to as little as 3, but missed FTs on Temple’s end and made FTs on the Trojan’s end is what decided the final minute or so of the contest.

Stars of the Game

The aforementioned sophomore guard, Khalif Battle had an impressive showing in the second half. Nineteen of his twenty six points came in the final 20 minutes. He made a couple of tough 3s, including one fadeaway, which sparked Temple’s offense down the stretch.

Although the Owls didn’t have much in terms of secondary scoring behind Battle, there were still key contributors on the floor. Forward Nick Jourdain had himself a solid game defensively and on the glass, with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. The freshman, who was an AAU teammate of Battle’s, leads the team in both categories so far this season.

What’s Next

After consecutive home games to start the season, the Owls will travel to South Carolina for the Charleston Classic. In game one they will go up against the ACC’s Clemson Tigers on November 18th at 4pm. The following day, they will play either Boise State or St. Bonaventure in a quick turnaround at 12 or 2/2:30 pm.

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