Owls’ comeback attempt falls short in loss to Green Wave

Temple Men’s Basketball will face off against Cincinnati in the No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed game at the AAC Tournament.

Guard Damian Dunn's 21 points were not enough for the Owls as Temple lost 83-82 to Tulane. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

With less than five seconds on the clock, Temple guard Jahlil White was swarmed beneath the basket as he rose for a layup. Three Tulane players got their hands around the shot and surrounded White as he came to the ground, putting the contest to rest. 

Temple Men’s Basketball (16-15, 10-8 The American Athletic Conference) lost to Tulane University (19-10, 11-7 The American) 83-82 on Sunday afternoon in New Orleans. The Owls officially secured a second-round matchup against Cincinnati at the upcoming American Athletic Conference tournament with their loss against the Green Wave. 

The two teams have gone back-and-forth in their previous matchups, and it seemed as if even more was on the line this first Sunday of March.

While both teams already secured first-round byes, the opportunity to avoid facing Houston until the championship round was the big prize  at this point in the regular season. 

Temple began the game shooting inefficiently from beyond the arc, not making their first three-point attempt until there were nine minutes left in the first half. The Owls shot below 30 percent for the majority of the first period while the Green Wave made more than half of their shots throughout the first 10 minutes. 

Tulane guard Jalen Cook, who entered the contest second in The American averaging 20.3 points per game, scored the ball effectively early on. Cook had 14 of his team’s 44 points in the first half, leading both teams in scoring. 

During the past few contests, Temple has experienced what playing without guard Khalif Battle will be like in the AAC Tournament. Similar to their close win against UCF, the Owls were forced to move the ball and play with less isolation ball than in their earlier matchups with these teams. 

Temple guard Damian Dunn is the team’s key catalyst in Battle’s absence, but he seemed to go missing for stretches of the first half. The redshirt-sophomore shot 2-of-7 from the field and made none of his four attempts from deep during the first 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, Tulane’s offensive range was on full display. The Green Wave shot 55.6 percent from three in the first period, with four different players hitting threes for Tulane. While it seemed as if Tulane could not miss from the field, Temple remained within 10 points due to their consistent passing during the final seven minutes of play. 

A key facet to Tulane’s success was their offensive quickness. What they lacked in defensive size they turned into quick buckets on the offensive end. Temple big Jamille Reynolds had some success in the offensive paint, but it did not make up for his inability to close out on Tulane’s scorers. 

White stepped up early on for Temple by capitalizing on his size advantage at the position for buckets down low and trips to the foul line, scoring eight points and securing three rebounds early.

Temple guard Hysier Miller’s three-point woes continued into the second half. Miller, who is shooting 32.5 percent from three on the season, then dropped into a facilitator role for the Owls. This took a shooter off the floor and, after he was assessed a technical foul, Miller was removed from the floor altogether. 

With more than 14 minutes remaining, the Green Wave had a 16-point lead against the Owls. Dunn then stepped up his shooting, and some more complete offensive possessions cut Tulane’s lead to six. 

Once Temple began to find Reynolds down low, their inside-out offense was clicking. Reynolds, White, Dunn and forwards Zach Hicks and Nick Jourdain each reached double digit scoring. 

In typical fashion between these two teams, the contest became a back-and-forth affair down the stretch. A stretch of fouls and stoppages prevented the flow of the game, ruining Temple’s offensive tempo and hindering Tulane’s shotmaking. 

In what was an intense regular season finale, Temple’s well-rounded second half effort fell short and Tulane’s strong start ultimately handed them the win. 

Once Houston, UCF and Cincinnati leave the conference for the Big 12, Temple and Tulane will be two teams to watch take the reins of the AAC. 

Up next, No. 5-seeded Temple heads to Fort Worth, Texas, to take on No. 4 Cincinnati on March 10 at 3 p.m. at Dickies Arena in the AAC Tournament. 

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