Owls’ season ends after close loss to USF

Temple men’s basketball lost to the Bulls 73-71 in the first round of The American Athletic Conference tournament.

Sophomore guard Khalif Battle attempts to make a basket during the Owls' game against the University of Cincinnati at the Liacouras Center on Feb. 4. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

With the score 73-71 and five seconds left in the game, sophomore guard Khalif Battle barreled down the court trying to get a shot opportunity to tie before he lost the ball off his own foot, sealing the Owls’ loss.

“It hurts me, I can’t put into words how much I wanted us to win, but one mistake and that can change the game,” Battle said. 

Temple University men’s basketball (5-11, 4-10 The American Athletic Conference) finished its 2020-21 season in a tough 73-71 loss against the University of South Florida (9-12, 4-10 The American) in the first round of The American Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday afternoon. 

Temple jumped out to an early lead with efficient shooting and high energy on defense, but the Bulls stayed in striking distance the whole first half. 

Temple shot 46.67 percent from the field while the Bulls shot 41.18 percent from the field in the first half. The Owls went to the locker room during halftime down 38-37. 

“Once the game settled in, [South Florida’s] defense kicked in and we missed a few, we dug a hole for ourselves, and throughout the second half, we were just playing catch up,” said head coach Aaron McKie.

USF senior guard David Collins scored a game-high 23 points and led the Bulls’ offense. Temple could not stop Collins from attacking the paint, where he made nine out of 19 shots from the field. 

The Owls struggled offensively in the second half. Battle, who led the team with 18 points, scored just six in the second half, all from the free-throw line. 

After scoring once around 30 seconds into the second half, the Owls did not convert another field goal for around nine minutes, allowing the Bulls to forge an eight-point lead. 

Temple competed down to the last minute. With the score 67-56, graduate student guard Brendan Barry came in with a quick steal and 3-point shot to keep Temple trailing by eight points. 

Soon after, Barry scored another 3-point shot, slicing the Bulls’ lead down to two points.

A technical foul on freshman guard Jeremiah Williams put USF on the free-throw line, where the Bulls had shot 50 percent in the second half. Collins missed both his free-throw attempts, leaving Temple with five seconds on the clock to score.

Unfortunately, the Owls lost the ball before their offense could get a shot off. 

“We had a chance to get back into the game and tie the game,” McKie said. “It just didn’t happen for us, but I’m proud of the way my guys battled. South Florida played well, they had contributions from everybody, and that’s what you need around this time of year.”

McKie felt the group continued to fight, which shows character about their potential for the future, he added. 

The winner of the AAC tournament will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

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