Owls’ defense guides them to victory over Hawks

Temple Men’s Basketball forced 15 Saint Joe’s turnovers in a definitive 70-60 victory against their Big 5 rival.

Temple Men's Basketball scored 36 points in the paint in their Big 5 victory over Saint Joe's. NICK GANGEWERE | THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Owls completed their fourth Big 5 matchup with a victory, clinching a share of the Big 5 title for the 2022 season. The accomplishment marks the first time since the 2012-13 season that Philadelphia’s premier college basketball crown has returned to North Broad. 

Temple Men’s Basketball (6-4, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) defeated Saint Joseph’s University (3-5, 0-0 The Atlantic 10) 70-60 on Tuesday evening at The Liacouras Center to extend their win streak to four games. The Owls can win the Big 5 title outright if they defeat the University of Pennsylvania (5-6, 0-0 Ivy League) on Saturday afternoon at The Palestra. 

“It means a lot,” said head coach Aaron McKie about the Big 5 title. “It’s something that I’ve been a part of my entire life. You can put your name in the history books.”

Redshirt sophomore guard Khalif Battle continued his stretch of electric play, scoring 20 points and creating many highlight-reel plays. Late in the first half Battle threw down a slam after redshirt sophomore guard Damian Dunn poked the ball away from the Hawks’ sophomore forward Kacper Klaczek. 

Temple forced 15 turnovers from Saint Joe’s and scored 18 points off turnovers. In their last game, a commanding 83-73 victory against Virginia Commonwealth University (5-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10), Temple forced 18 turnovers as well. The Owls have made defense a priority, and it has propelled them to consecutive victories for the first time this season. 

Shooting became an issue for the Owls late in the first half. Temple entered halftime shooting at a 25 percent clip from three-point territory and 37.5 percent from the field. Saint. Joe’ss went on a 8-0 stretch late in the period before the Owls began to convert their attempts.

Battle had nine points at halftime while Dunn had zero points but two assists and two steals. Dunn’s unselfish brand of basketball has been a catalyst for the Owls during the last three games. His scoring average may have dropped to 16.8 points per game, but by creating opportunities for his teammates the Owls have improved their offensive efficiency. 

Temple began to pull away from Saint Joe’s in the second half when a Battle dunk turned into a three-pointer from sophomore guard Hysier Miller. Miller averaged 7.2 points per game entering the contest and finished with 10 points, shooting 31 percent from the field. 

Either way, Temple’s emphasis was to get the ball down low and find shooters if interior options aren’t available.

“We always try to play inside-out,” Miller said. 

Temple finished the game with eight different scorers, three of which reached double-digit scoring totals. The Owls’ well-rounded offensive attack provided many mismatches for Saint Joe’s defensively and Temple was eventually able to capitalize on open looks. 

Temple’s lead defender, sophomore forward Jahlil White, finished with two steals, four rebounds and eight points. White has lacked offensive efficiency throughout the season but with only one turnover against the Hawks, Temple looks like they can rely on White being on the floor. 

For the Hawks, who entered the game averaging 71 points per game, their offense faltered. Leading scorer sophomore guards Erik Reynolds II and Lynn Greer III combined for 22 points on 35 percent shooting. 

Senior guard Cameron Brown led all scorers with a career-high 25 points. 

Saint Joe’s was fresh off of a 97-80 home loss to Fairleigh Dickinson University (4-6, 0-0 The Northeast Conference), a game in which the Hawks gave up their biggest point total all season. Their defense, while better than last time out, still couldn’t secure them a victory. 

“You got Dunn and Battle and then you got [Jamille] Reynolds,” said Saint Joe’s head coach Billy Lange. “Credit to Temple, they’re good.”

Temple is now three games out of conference play with a 6-4 record overall. With games against Penn on Dec. 10 and a Dec. 17 matchup with the University of Mississippi (6-2, 0-0 The Southeastern Conference) on the horizon, the Owls must win out to bolster their depleted non-conference record. 

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