With just more than four minutes remaining in the second half, redshirt sophomore guard Khalif Battle converted on a contested step-back three-point shot that capped off a 12-0 run to put the Owls up 67-56 and help Temple secure a much-needed victory.
“Khalif is just being Khalif,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “He’s gonna make shots for us and score for us and he’s taking on the challenge of playing some of the better offensive players on the opposing team.”
The Owls (3-4, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) defeated Drexel University (3-4, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association) 73-61 on Sunday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. After a disappointing showing at the Empire Classic last week, the Owls bounced back to earn an important win.
Battle has been the Owls’ leading scorer by a large margin since he was benched in the second half of Temple’s 89-87 overtime loss to Vanderbilt on Nov. 15. Today, the guard finished with 25 points while shooting 9-16 from the field and controlled the ball during most of the team’s must-score possessions.
“One time I took [Battle] out of the game and he told me, ‘Coach I don’t get tired,’” McKie said. “He was fighting with me not to come out of the game and I like that, he’s just one of those kids who just doesn’t really get tired out there on the floor.”
Sophomore guard Hysier Miller also shined for the Owls, putting together what may have been his best game as a member of the Cherry and White. Miller finished the game with 19 points and seven assists, shooting an efficient 7-8 from the field.
Both teams traded blows for the majority of the first half. Three-pointers from Miller and sophomore forward Zach Hicks helped put the Owls up seven in the late stages of the half, but five unanswered points from the Dragons cut Temple’s lead to just four going into halftime.
The Owls prioritized ball security entering today’s contest after turning the ball over a total of 37 times throughout the season, including instances where they had eight consecutive possessions result in a turnover during their two games at the Empire Classic. Despite a pair of turnovers in the opening minute, Temple finished with only 11 in total today.
“We put ourselves in better positions,” Miller said. “I felt like on some occasions we put ourselves in bad places in the last few games so I think we did a better job today.”
The Dragons took their first lead of the game in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Owls eventually pulled away after several minutes of back-and-forth play thanks to 16 second-half points from Battle.
Sophomore forward Jamille Reynolds left the game with just less than nine minutes remaining in the game after suffering an apparent left leg injury. Despite a noticeable limp, Reynolds walked off the court on his own power and rejoined his teammates on the bench.
If Reynolds were to miss time going forward, the Owls would likely rely on graduate forward Kur Jongkuch and sophomore forward Nick Jourdain for increased roles. Sophomore center Emmanuel Okpomo could also earn minutes off the bench for Temple.
“I think he’s gonna be okay,” McKie said. “It’s one of those things where when you get injured and it’s a bruise or something like that, you got to see what happens overnight but I’m hoping he’s okay.”
The Owls will look to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when they take on Big 5 rival La Salle University (3-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10 Conference) at The Palestra on Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. McKie will coach against former Temple head coach and current La Salle head coach Fran Dunphy for the first time in his career.
“It’s gonna be a Big 5 battle,” McKie said. “I think it’s pretty cool, a guy that got me involved in the college game and I’m coaching here, he’s at La Salle and getting the opportunity to compete against him and coach against him should be fun.”