The Owls secured a first-round bye in the American Athletic Conference Tournament with an all-important win against the University of South Florida Sunday afternoon, shooting 39 percent from the field compared to the Bulls’ 29 percent.
Temple University men’s basketball (17-11, 10-7 The American Athletic Conference) defeated the Bulls (8-22, 3-15 The American) 75-47, with the Owls scoring 37 first half points in a decisive showing from the tip.
Owls’ redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn closed out the regular season with 27 points on 61.5 percent shooting. Freshman forward Zach Hicks contributed with 12 points off four 3-pointers.
“We were able to share it more efficiently,” Dunn said. “Building confidence within myself, and from everybody else as well.”
Temple came into the game looking to bounce back after a season-worst 38-point loss to the University of Houston (26-5, 15-3 The American) on March 3, securing one of their largest winning margins of the season.
Temple’s ball movement throughout the game created plenty of open looks for Hicks, Dunn and redshirt-sophomore guard Tai Strickland, who ended up combining for 43 points and seven 3-pointers.
After scoring just 11 points total the last time these teams played on Feb. 7, Dunn recorded 14 points in the first half on Sunday, and the Owls already had 56 points with 11 minutes and 54 seconds remaining in the game.
While the offensive showing was efficient, Temple’s defense was tenacious throughout the game. The Owls held Bulls’ sophomore forward Russel Tchewa to seven points and seven rebounds on 50 percent shooting, with all three of Temple’s bigs in junior Jake Forrester, redshirt-sophomore Arashma Parks and freshman Emmanuel Okpomo getting minutes. This was Forrester’s appearance since Jan. 12 against the University of Tulsa, and Okpomo’s second consecutive start.
The Owls boxed out hard to secure 46 rebounds and contested most of the Bulls’ shots throughout the game. The Bulls shot 28.8 percent from the field and 5.6 percent from three in large part to Temple’s hounding defensive performance.
During a six-minute stretch in the middle of the second half, the Owls went on a 13-0 run, making two of nine field goals. They still outscored the Bulls, who went one of 14 during the same span.
A scoring drought like this can oftentimes dictate games, but consistent rebounding and overall time of possession allowed Temple to keep the Bulls out of the game.
“I thought this was our best game at sharing the ball for 40 minutes,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “It opened up driving lanes for us and gave us quality looks from the three-point line.”
With freshman guard Jeremiah Williams still sidelined due to a shoulder injury, true-freshman guard Hysier Miller got the start alongside Dunn and freshman guard Jahlil White. This lineup also featured Okpomo and freshman forward Nick Jourdain, utilizing the Owls’ size.
Senior guard Colin Daly and junior guard Ryan Sayers even appeared late in the game.
The Owls will head to Fort Worth, Texas, to compete in the American Athletic Conference Tournament on March 10 in a first-round contest against Tulane University (13-13, 10-7 The American).