After guard Khalif Battle went scoreless in only 17 minutes of play, head coach Aaron McKie didn’t elaborate much on his decision not to play the redshirt sophomore in the critical moments of the second half.
“Yeah [it was just] a decision that I made,” McKie said.
On Thursday, Temple Men’s Basketball (14-13, 8-6 The American Athletic Conference) lost to Wichita State (14-12, 7-7 The American) 79-65 at The Liacouras Center.
After losing its previous three games, Temple had an opportunity to secure a critical win against a Shockers team that has also struggled in conference play. A win would have given the Owls momentum after consecutive road losses and helped the team keep pace with the conference’s top teams, two of which they recently lost to during their three-game skid.
The game started close as both teams traded baskets and the Owls only led by two nearly seven minutes into the game. Both teams were effective at driving to the basket and finishing through contact or earning opportunities at the free throw line.
Forward Zach Hicks, who has struggled to find his stroke from beyond the arc, scored 12 points in the first half by moving without the ball and converting opportunities late in the shot clock. Hicks came into the game only averaging 9.1 points per game and shooting 36 percent from three.
In the closing minutes of the first half, the Shockers pressured the Owls and forced four turnovers and a series of contested shot attempts. Wichita State’s defense allowed them to complete the first half with a 41-33 lead.
Both teams traded runs in the second half with each team playing stretches where they scored at will, yet eventually reverted to conceding a series of baskets.
After a series of productive offensive possessions and Temple’s continued emphasis on attacking the basket, the Owls tied the game at 45 with a 12-4 run to begin the second half.
However, the Shockers responded to Temple’s early-half offensive surge and generated a run of their own that allowed them to take a 58-49 lead.
Guard Damian Dunn, who ranks second on the team in scoring behind Battle, played to his season scoring average and put up 14 points.
The Owls continued to benefit from solid three-point shooting in the second half as Hicks and Dunn both knocked down three pointers to give the Owls a brief lead.
However, Wichita State went on a 13-0 definitive run that they cemented for the remainder of the second half en reroute to a victory.
After losing their fourth consecutive game, McKie believed the Owls tried too hard to force shots during stretches where they had momentum in the second half.
“Once we got the lead and we were able to fight back and it just seemed like everybody was trying to hit it out of the park on the offensive side,” McKie said.
The Owls will play another game at home when they face Tulsa (5-20, 1-13 The American) on Sunday at 2 p.m.
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