Temple University men’s basketball (17-11, 10-7 The American Athletic Conference) will face Tulane University (13-14, 10-8 The American) in the second round of The American Athletic Conference tournament on Friday afternoon in Fort Worth, Texas, marking the teams’ third meeting this season.
The teams have split the series 1-1, but Temple clinched the No. 4 seed, after Tulane fell to Southern Methodist University on Mar. 6. The Green Wave won the first contest against the Owls 92-83, in overtime, on Feb. 12. Temple then came back to beat them, 75-70, in their last matchup on Feb. 27.
Both teams feature electric backcourts led by Owls All-AAC second-team guard redshirt-freshman Damian Dunn, and the Green Wave’s All-AAC first-team guard freshman Jalen Cook and second-team guard sophomore Jaylen Forbes.
“We want to keep their main guys as quiet as possible,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “We got to guard them without fouling.”
Dunn is averaging 15.2 points per game, which ranks sixth in The American. Forbes is fourth, averaging 16.6 points per game, and sophomore forward Kevin Cross, who won The American’s Most Improved Player award, is averaging 13.8 points per game.
These two teams are both young and athletic, but excel on different ends of the floor.
Temple has been tenacious on defense all season, holding teams to 66.4 points per game — good for fifth in The American. Tulane is giving up 71.1 points per game, placing them last in the conference.
Offense is another story, with Tulane third in The American averaging 73.9 points per game. Temple sits in 10th with an average of only 67.0 points per game, leading to Temple honing in on both sides of the ball this week ahead up the matchup.
“I know they have a pretty good D-pushing team,” said freshman guard Hysier Miller. “Defensively, they play a good matchup zone.”
This zone may give Temple problems if they remain without freshman guard Jeremiah Williams, who will be a game-time decision after missing the past few games with a shoulder injury.
This game could come down to the play of each team’s stars, but there are unsung heroes that could help define the matchup. In their first meeting this season, Temple freshman guard Jahlil White dropped 10 points, eight rebounds, while Miller scored nine points and had eight assists.
In both Temple matchups, the Green Wave shot more than 40 percent from 3-point territory in a diverse scoring attack, forcing Temple to keep up. If Temple has any chance at winning, freshman guard Zach Hicks will need to be a threat from deep. Hicks is shooting 38.1 percent from three on the season.
“I think just playing as a team and believing in each other is the best way we can get by this team,” Hicks said. “They really do play hard and they fight.”
The game is slated for a 3 p.m. tip-off at Dickies Arena. A win would advance Temple to take on the winner of the No.1 University of Houston (26-5, 15-3 The American) and No. 8 University of Cincinnati (18-14, 7-11 The American) in the semifinals.