Temple beats Tulsa for much-needed win

After dropping four consecutive games, the Owls bounced back with a 76-53 win against Tulsa.

Sophomore guard Damian Dunn drives to the basket for a layup against Tulsa on Feb. 19 at The Liacouras Center. | EARL KUFEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Men’s Basketball (15-13, 9-6 American Athletic Conference) defeated Tulsa (5-21, 1-14 The American) 76-53 on Sunday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. After dropping four consecutive conference games, the Owls bounced back with a much-needed win to remain in position to earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

“I’ll take it,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “I thought it was a complete game, we didn’t do everything right but we led with our defense, we shared the ball, we made shots and we had a total team effort this afternoon which led to a win.”

Despite being without guard Khalif Battle, who leads the team in scoring, because of personal reasons as reported by OwlScoop.com, Temple’s offense did not miss a beat. As a team, the Owls shot more than 55 percent from the floor.

Without Battle, Temple spread the ball to more players in scoring situations. The Owls had six different players surpass eight points. Forward Kur Jongkuch scored on each of his four shot attempts while guard Jahlil White and forward Zach Hicks added eight points apiece.

“We shared [the ball],” McKie said. “We just moved and found the open guy and it’s really the way you wanna play basketball, if you share the game then everybody’s happy.”

Tulsa went up by four in the early stages of the first half following a stepback three-point shot from guard Sam Griffin, but a 10-0 run capped off by a three pointer from Hicks helped Temple build a lead they didn’t surrender. 

A three-point shot by guard Damian Dunn and an alley-oop dunk from guard Hysier Miller to forward Jamille Reynolds helped put Temple ahead by as much as 10 late in the first half. After a four-point play by Tulsa forward Tim Dalger with just more than a minute remaining, Temple entered halftime with a 37-30 lead.

In the second half, Temple continued to fight off Tulsa’s comeback attempts. The Golden Hurricane cut the deficit to just four following a three pointer from guard Jesaiah McWright, but the Owls responded with a three from Hicks and a driving layup from Jongkuch put Temple back up by 10.

In the back half of the period, Dunn found his shooting stroke, scoring 15 points while converting on each of his six field goal attempts. Three open shots from beyond the arc helped Temple generate a scoring run to put the game away.

“I trust what [Dunn] does out there,” McKie said. “A lot of it came from just getting that ball hopping around and the ball is going to find the right guy and it found him tonight and he hit some big shots tonight.”

Currently, the Owls hold the fifth and final first-round bye in the conference tournament. With the Owls’ only chance at qualifying for the NCAA tournament being an automatic bid, avoiding a first-round game will be crucial for Temple’s hopes of pulling off a conference tournament championship for the first time since joining the American Athletic Conference.

“That’s how I want it to be all the time,” McKie said. “We needed that and we were hitting guys, we had to stay out of foul trouble as much as possible. We’re gonna need more of it, we are gonna be playing teams that are bigger and physical so we gotta be able to match that physicality each game.”

The Owls will look to continue to rack up their remaining conference wins when they travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, to take on the University of Cincinnati (18-10, 9-6 The American) on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in an important matchup for seeding in the AAC tournament.

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