Owls blow 15 point lead in loss to Seahawks

Temple Men’s Basketball lost to Wagner College 76-73 in their season opener on Monday night at The Liacouras Center.

Sophomore starter Damian Dunn getting ready to pass the ball to his teammates. ERIKA MONN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Men’s Basketball (0-1, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) lost to Wagner College (1-0, 0-0 Northeast Conference) 76-73 on Monday night at The Liacouras Center. Temple struggled to knock down open shots early, and failed to put the game away late despite multiple strong scoring opportunities down the stretch.

“It’s a loss, and basketball is basketball,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “It’s tough after a loss but we are going to have to deal with this and we have another game to get prepared for so we’ll talk about this and figure out ways to get better and make corrections.”

With the Owls up three points with eight seconds left in regulation, redshirt sophomore guard Damian Dunn dribbled toward the basket to attempt a game sealing layup but lost control of the ball and the Seahawks got it back. Seconds later, Wagner graduate student forward Jahbril Price-Noel hit a game tying three-pointer to force overtime.

“We were just not communicating,” McKie said. “For the life of me, we practice those things all the time and we talk about guarding the three-point line and they just got below our guys and we lost sight of them.”

After leading by as much as 15 points in the second half, the Owls allowed the Seahawks to fight their way back, fumbling away what should have been a comfortable season opening victory.

After opening the game with a 3-0 lead on three foul shots from Dunn, the Owls did not regain a lead until the eight-minute mark when sophomore forward Zach Hicks nailed a three from the corner to put Temple out in front 18-16.

Hicks, who’s three-point shooting will play a key role in determining the Owls level of success this year, started the game 0-4 from beyond the arc and finished with just three points. As a team, Temple entered the second half shooting 29 percent from three and missed their first six attempts.

“We just were not in sync offensively,” McKie said. “I thought we got some pretty good shots but we just didn’t make them from guys that typically make so it happens and we are gonna run into games where we aren’t making shots.”

Despite offensive struggles, Dunn was a bright spot for the Owls, finishing the game with 29 points, with 18 coming from the free throw line, tying a school record.

In the second half, the Owls were able to cash in on more of their open opportunities. As a team, they shot just under 58 percent from the field and more than 66 percent from three in the half. Despite the offensive improvement, the Owls allowed the Seahawks to make three shots from beyond the arc, with multiple players failing to switch defenders and close lanes to the basket.

In his first game back since suffering a broken fifth metatarsal on Dec. 1, 2021, redshirt sophomore Khalif Battle started off slow, making just one field goal in the first half. In the second half, Battle found his groove and only missed one shot, converting on three attempts from beyond the arc and awakening the Temple crowd with each bucket.

“I thought he did a decent job out there,” McKie said. “He missed some shots that he normally makes but I think collectively from top to bottom everybody on the roster has to get better.”

The next few weeks will reveal a lot about Temple’s resilience as they set their sights on a return to the NCAA tournament. The Owls will have the opportunity to redeem themselves when they host Big 5 rival and No. 16 Villanova University (1-0, 0-0 Big East Conference) on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.

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