In its first game without sophomore guard Khalif Battle, Temple University men’s basketball (5-3, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) found several other scoring options in its 81-72 victory over the University of Pennsylvania (3-8, 0-0 The Ivy League).
“Our strength is in our numbers,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “We have to do it by committee.”
Redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn stepped up in the absence of Battle and redshirt-sophomore guard Tai Strickland, two of Temple’s top three scorers. Dunn scored a season-high 27 points, shooting nine of 15 from the field.
The Owls were forced to use a nine-man rotation this game due to injuries, even though they’ve used an 11-man rotation most of this season.
“That early intensity gave me the confidence to get into gaps and exploit their defense,” Dunn said. “I take it upon myself to step up into that role.”
Junior forward Jake Forrester also stepped up, scoring his own season-high 21 points. Forrester showed tenacity in the paint, recording several highlight-reel dunks and hustling on the glass on each possession.
Temple started the game on a 16 to six run where Penn made only two of their first 10 shots. Temple scored 39 first-half points, tied for its most in the first half this season. Freshman guard Quincy Ademokoya made his first career start and scored two 3-pointers early on.
Freshman guard Jahlil White had one of Temple’s many successful transition sequences, blocking a shot on the defensive end and receiving the ball on offense, cutting inside for a hook shot over the defender. White finished the game with six points on 50 percent shooting and had three blocks.
Dunn and Forrester outscored their season points per game averages in the first half alone, a testament to the Owls’ ability to spread the wealth early on. Temple only made four 3-pointers in the first half, and six of 21 attempts all game. Their ball movement simply opened up good looks from the mid-range.
In the second half, the Owls used many ball screens and two-man plays, forcing the Quakers to win their defensive matchups in isolation. Forrester, Dunn and freshman guard Jeremiah Williams worked the ball inside and shot well from mid-range. Williams finished with 12 points.
“We’re moving the ball a lot more now,” Ademokoya said. “It’s next man up.”
The Owls led the Quakers 33-32 in rebounds, grabbing nine offensive rebounds, leading to 14 second-chance points.
For the Quakers, sophomore guard Jordan Dingle scored 22 points, and senior forward Michael Wang scored 21. Penn shot 45.3 percent from the field in the second half, getting within seven points of the Owls down the stretch.
Temple’s momentum on the defensive side of the floor continued with several stops in the final few minutes of the contest. The Owls scored a season-high in points, shooting 56 percent from the field in the second half and 50.9 percent from the field.
“Temple was ready from the jump,” said Quakers’ head coach Steve Donahue. “Temple took advantage of the emotional leverage of losing your top shooter.”
The Owls hope to continue their winning streak on Dec. 7 at Vanderbilt University (5-1, 0-0 The Southeastern Conference) in Nashville, Tennessee.
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