Owls’ versatility leads to offensive rhythm

Temple University men’s basketball has closed out three consecutive conference wins.

Over the past 3 games, Nick Jourdain, a freshman forward, has averaged 15 points and 4 rebounds per game for the Owls. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After winning close games against the University of Central Florida (10-5, 2-3, The American Athletic Conference), East Carolina University (11-5, 2-2, The American) and the University of Tulsa (6-9, 0-4 The American) from Jan. 5 through Jan. 12, Temple University men’s basketball (10-6, 3-2, The American) is starting to utilize the versatility on its roster.

Multiple players, like true freshman forward Zach Hicks and freshman forward Nick Jourdain, have received more minutes, which has ended the Owls’ cold shooting spell and contributed to their recent offensive success.

Hicks, who leads the team in 3-pointers, showed his shooting confidence when he hit 16 threes in a single game — a program record — against Delaware State University (2-11, 0-1 Mid Eastern-Atlantic Conference) on Dec. 22. Jourdain’s coming off a career-high 23-point performance against the Golden Hurricane on Jan. 12, where he also had five rebounds, three blocks and two steals.  

Roughly halfway through their season, the Owls are averaging 67.8 points per game, a slight improvement from last season’s average of 65.8 points per game. Barring any additional cancellations due to COVID-19 issues, the Owls have 13 games remaining in the regular season, giving them time to increase their scoring output.

The Owls’ three-game conference winning streak comes off the heels of two postponements against Drexel University (7-6, 0-0, The Colonial Athletic) on Dec. 18 and Villanova University (13-4, 6-1, The Big East) on Dec. 29. They are now in position to be legitimate contenders in the American Athletic Conference Championship Tournament in March. 

Here are recent positive trends for Temple’s offense.

The rise of Jourdain

Jourdain has become one of the Owls’ top performers. 

In the last three games, Jourdain has averaged 32 minutes per game. He is shooting more confidently from 3-point range, despite his lackluster percentage, and showcasing his ability to be a consistent scorer inside the paint. 

“I’m finally catching my rhythm,” Jourdain said. “Understanding where to put my talents, my skills and I’d apply it to games, real games.”

The forward set new career-highs two games in a row, tallying 16 points against the Pirates on Jan. 8 and a team high of 23 points against the Golden Hurricane on Jan. 12.

Jourdain is averaging 6.6 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game this season, compared to his average of 15 points per game and roughly 4.3 rebounds per game during Temple’s three-game winning streak. 

“There’s a lot of growing pains with these young guys but he’s in there working and he’s getting better with each game,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “As I saw him walking out I told him to demand more of yourself, get greedy and to want more.”

Free throw efficiency

The Owls have shown major improvement in their free throw efficiency, something they’ve struggled with since the start of the season. 

“It can come down to making free throws late in games,” McKie said after their victory against the Golden Hurricane. “It’s something that’s been helping us throughout the year and hopefully that continues where we’re making critical free throws down the stretch.”

In their last three games, the Owls averaged a 75.27 free throw percentage per game, including a 82.6 free throw percentage against the Golden Hurricane, its highest percentage in conference play this season. 

Currently, Hicks leads the team with a perfect free throw percentage, however, Hicks has only attempted six shots from the line this season. Redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn, who’s attempted the most, has made 70 of 84 free throws, totaling a 85.4 free throw percentage.

Dunn is the only player who consistently draws fouls and converts his opportunities at the free throw line. Jourdain has attempted more as his playing time has increased, pulling a 69.7 percentage.

This is an improvement from the Owls’ 38.9 free throw percentage against Saint Joseph’s University (7-7, 1-2, The Atlantic 10) on Dec. 11, which was a significant factor in their 68-49 loss.

The team’s field goal percentage has remained steady in the high 40’s during the last few games, compared to previous percentages in the 20’s and 30’s after sophomore guard Khalif Battle suffered his season-ending injury.

The Owls will face off against Wichita State University (9-6, 0-3, The American) on Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Liacouras Center.

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