With 22 seconds remaining in overtime in a one-point game, Vanderbilt senior guard Ezra Manjon made a turnaround mid-range jump shot, giving Vanderbilt in the lead 88-87. Seconds later, Temple redshirt sophomore Damian Dunn drove to the basket and missed a potential game-winning layup.
The Owls had yet another chance to tie the game with six seconds remaining in overtime, but sophomore forward Zach Hicks’ shot was blocked by Commodores’ fifth-year senior forward Liam Robbins as time expired.
“We botched that,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “We should have had a big fella down low near the basket and [sophomore guard Hysier Miller] should have just continued to attack or get the ball into [Dunn’s] hands.”
The Owls (1-2, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) lost to Vanderbilt University (1-2, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) 89-87 on Tuesday night at The Liacouras Center. After defeating Villanova University on Friday night in what was arguably the team’s best win in the McKie era, Temple failed to replicate the same late-game heroics on Tuesday.
With just a minute remaining in regulation, Dunn knocked down a three-point shot to cut the Owls’ deficit to just two points. After a defensive stop, Hicks drew a foul and converted on both free throws to tie the game at 76, sending the game into overtime.
Dunn finished the game with a career-best 38 points, shooting 13-18 from the field. It was the most points in a game by a Temple player since David Hawkins scored 41 points in 2004.
“He was great,” McKie said. “I felt bad because I was trying to get him out of the game and give him a little blow but we had to keep him out on the floor and I thought he was outstanding on both ends of the floor and that’s hard to do.”
The Owls were in a rhythm early in the game, coming away with points in each of their first five possessions to take a 22-11 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
Hicks, who made a total of two three-point attempts in the first two games of the season, played a large role in creating the early lead. He started the game hot from beyond the arc, hitting three of his five attempts from three.
Despite the Owls’ strong start, the Commodores closed the first half on an 11-5 run that was capped off with a driving layup from Commodores’ freshman center Lee Dort, sending the game into halftime with a 37-37 tie.
The Owls made just 12 of their 31 field goal attempts in the first half and struggled to take advantage of open scoring opportunities in the late stages of the half. Redshirt sophomore guard Khalif Battle went 0-5 from the field in the half and hardly appeared on the floor at any point after halftime.
“I just played the guys who I felt wanted to be out there,” McKie said.
Vanderbilt took their first lead of the game just 10 seconds into the second half following a driving dunk from fifth-year senior forward Quentin Millora-Brown. The Commodores stayed in front for the majority of the second half, leading by as much as 13.
The Owls could not capitalize on multiple strong scoring chances throughout the second half. Hicks missed a pair of wide-open threes while Miller finished the game 2-6 from the field.
The Owls, who labeled themselves as “tournament-or-bust” before the season, have now lost two out-of-conference games that they were projected to win. It’s still early, but Temple will need to play nearly perfect basketball for the remainder of their out-of-conference schedule to be considered as an at-large team for the NCAA tournament in March.
“It’s going to cost us big time,” McKie said. “Come February and March, we are going to look back and start pointing to these games.”
The Owls will look for their third consecutive win when they travel to the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, to take on Rutgers University (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten Conference) at the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase game on Friday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m.
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