Inconsistencies plague Temple through first half of season

Temple Men’s Basketball scores the third fewest points per game in the American Athletic Conference and sits at 347th in the country in field goal percentage.

With an overall record of 8-9, Temple is on pace to finish a losing record for the first time since 2020. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

At the midway point of head coach Adam Fisher’s first season at the helm, Temple Men’s Basketball sits at just 8-9 overall and 1-3 in American Athletic Conference play. 

The Owls hoped for early success under their first-year head coach, but a lack of consistency on both sides of the ball has caused a hot and cold start to the season. 

“It’s a season of ups and downs,” Fisher said. “You have to try and just stay even throughout, not too high, not too low. The biggest thing we can do is just stay together through the good and the bad because you can see some nights you’re just not going to have it.”

Temple started the season on a hot streak, but suffered multiple losses to beatable teams during the middle of its out-of-conference schedule. When the Owls are at their best, the defense shines and the offense is efficient, but getting that version of the team consistently has been an issue. 

The Owls opened up their out-of-conference schedule with three straight wins against Maryland Eastern Shore, Navy and Drexel. Temple’s defense shined against its opponents, forcing turnovers with its intense and aggressive playstyle. Leading the defensive charge were forward Steve Settle III and guard Jahlil White. 

While the defense impressed, the offense struggled to find a rhythm despite the early-season wins. White and guard Hysier Miller took a bulk of the offensive responsibilities helping the Owls pull out key wins. Both guards averaged more than 15 points through the first three games. 

The Owls suffered back-to-back losses to Columbia and Ole Miss but rebounded with a crucial triple overtime win against La Salle for a spot in the inaugural Big 5 Championship game. The Owls’ offensive struggles caught up with them again in the championship game against St. Joe’s, going on multiple scoring droughts leading to a second-place finish.

Guard Hysier Miller has averaged a team-leading 16.1 points per game but has been inefficient with the ball, shooting less than 35 percent from the field. 

Miller has been the offensive focal point despite inconsistent shooting. He leads the team in shots attempted, with 100 more than the next closest player. When he struggles on offense, the entire offense looks stagnant, and that’s typically when Temple goes on its long scoring droughts. 

“My teammates get me good looks,” Miller said. “Sometimes the defense gives me good looks, and coach [Fisher] trusts me to make them. So just got to be confident with them.”

White, the Owls’ second-highest scorer, has struggled to stay healthy, missing seven of 16 games with a recurring hand injury he suffered on Nov. 18 against Columbia. Temple’s defense and rebounding has noticeably underperformed when he’s not on the floor. 

White has seen success in his two most recent games back from injury. He has scored 24 points, grabbed nine rebounds and played solid defense coming off the bench.

“I feel like my coaching staff and my teammates, they all do a great job of instilling the confidence in me,” White said. “That’s all it is for me. Just confidence, not overthink the game. Just playing.”

When Miller struggles with efficiency and White has been out of the lineup, it’s been transfer guard Jordan Riley who has stepped up after missing time early this season due to an injury. Riley is averaging 14.1 points in his last nine games and has shown off his athleticism with shifty layups and great defense. 

Freshman guard Zion Stanford was another bright spot through the early part of the season, averaging 12 points through the Owls’ first nine games and providing the team with a spark of offense off the bench.

Stanford has played just 35 total minutes and hasn’t scored a single point since the NACB Brooklyn Showcase against Albany on Dec. 10. He was originally dealing with an ankle injury, but now it seems the dip in minutes is coming from a lack of performance.

“He’s a freshman,” Fisher said. “He’s got to learn what it takes to compete at this level. We got to see it in practice. He had a great day [Jan. 9], so that was great improvement for us, and he’s got to continue to show that.” 

Temple is averaging the third least amount of points in the American Athletic Conference so far at just 71.2 points per game. The Owls also sit at 348th in the country in field goal percentage, shooting 37.9 percent from the field. 

The Owls have one of smallest rosters in college basketball, mostly full of guards who rely on touches to find a rhythm on the offensive side of the floor. Outside of Miller, White and Riley, no other player has stepped up as a scorer when those three are struggling. 

On Tuesday, the Owls enter the back half of the season and every game is starting to mean more. The team will have to work even harder as the conference opponents start to become familiar with Fisher’s play style.

“We want to play our best basketball in March,” Fisher said. “All of these are situations that we learn from and take from. We’re going to compete, and if we play the right way we’re going to live with the results.”

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