Temple can’t complete comeback, falls to Memphis

Temple Men’s Basketball went into halftime down 18 points before cutting the lead to three late in the second half in their 84-77 loss Thursday night.

Temple lost its eighth straight game with a 84-77 defeat against the Memphis State Tigers. | JACK LARSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Men’s Basketball went into halftime down 18 points Thursday night against Memphis. The Owls had led for just 15 seconds before the Tigers went into second gear, outscoring Temple by 18 in the final 12 minutes of the half.

Temple head coach Adam Fisher was desperate to keep the game close and pulled out his laptop in the locker room during halftime. Fisher showed every member of his team Memphis’ game against South Florida, where the Bulls came back from being down 20 points to stun the Tigers on Jan. 18. 

The newly-motivated Owls opened the second half of the contest blazing hot. They battled back from down 23 and went on a 12-0 run with eight minutes remaining in the game, trimming the Tigers’ lead to only six points. It seemed they found some life against the once nationally-ranked Tigers.

However, Temple (8-15, 1-9 American Athletic Conference) could not complete the comeback and fell to Memphis (17-6, 6-4 AAC) 84-77 Thursday night at The Liacouras Center. The Owls have now lost eight straight games, with their last win coming against Wichita State on Jan. 7.

“It’s hard to spot a team like we did in the first half,” Fisher said. “We talk about it all the time to get to the final four minutes, be right there. We had some guys really step up tonight did some great things.”

Things began to unravel when Temple guard Hysier Miller drove the ball up the court and got fouled with eight minutes left in the game. Both teams got into each other’s faces, and the officials broke the tension by calling double technical fouls to put an end to the situation. Fisher had to restrain his team going into the media timeout, trying to refocus his squad.

The Owls came out firing on all cylinders after the timeout, but their momentum quickly fizzled. Miller missed two crucial free throws that would have brought Temple to within three points, and Memphis held Temple at bay for the rest of the game.

“Just having the talk we had at halftime,” said Temple guard Jahlil White. “Coming out knowing that we’re gonna have to fight and claw and be aggressive to get back in this game. I felt like that’s what we did.”

White scored 11 points in the first half to wake up his team’s lifeless offense. Guard Zion Stanford, whose playing time has been limited since scoring 16 points against Albany on Dec. 10, chipped in with seven of his 12 points in the first half of play.

Jahlil White scored 20 points in Temple’s failed comeback. The Memphis State Tigers defeated the Owls 84-77 at the Liacouras Center. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Miller was mostly non-existent, scoring just 12 points while being held scoreless in the first half. Temple shot 41 percent from the field as a team and had 18 turnovers.

“We have to be stronger with the basketball,” Fisher said. “[Memphis] is known for a team that gets steals and gets out of the break. We gotta be able to feed, pick it up and look for the open guy and get it to the next side of the floor. Again they made some plays.”

Memphis found its groove halfway through the first half, and Temple had no answers on defense. The Tigers shot 54 percent from the field in the first half and led by as many as 23 points in the contest. Four Memphis players reached double-digit points, and the Tigers led for all but two minutes of the game.

Forward Nick Jourdain made his return to North Broad Street after transferring to Memphis this offseason and was showered with boos. He scored 10 points, while forward David Jones had his way with the Owls’ defense, finishing with 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Jourdain made a major impact on defense, stifling Temple’s offense down the stretch.

[David Jones] made big shots, he’s done it all year long,” Fisher said. “I thought we did a nice job of getting a hand on some tough shots. We tried to deny him and take it out his hands, and he still finds ways to get touches for them.” 

Temple will try to end its losing streak against Charlotte (14-8, 8-2 AAC) at The Liacouras Center on Feb. 11 at 2 p.m.

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