Temple Men’s Basketball (14-12, 8-5 American Athletic Conference) lost to Memphis (19-6, 9-3 The American) 86-77 on Sunday afternoon in Memphis, Tennessee. For the first time this season, the Owls have lost three consecutive conference games and seem to be playing their worst brand of basketball at the most critical time of the year.
Guard Damian Dunn, who had been coming off the bench despite being the team’s second leading scorer, started in place of guard Jahlil White, who was ruled out with a tailbone injury prior to the contest.
Dunn’s return to the starting lineup was an underwhelming one, shooting a less than impressive 3-of-11 from the floor while turning the ball over four times. It was guard Hyiser Miller who took control of the backcourt, hitting seven of his 11 shots while picking up six rebounds and a block.
In the early stages of the first half, Temple had no answers for Memphis’ full court press defense. As soon as the Owls inbounded the ball, the Tigers immediately applied heavy pressure. The strong defense and minimal care for ball security resulted in 11 first half turnovers for the Owls.
Temple was still able to keep pace with Memphis’ offense in the first half despite the turnover differential and sloppy play. As a team, the Owls shot 52 percent from the floor in the period. Miller and forward Nick Jourdain shot a combined 6-7 in the half while guard Khalif Battle also added a pair of field goals including a deep three-point shot in the final minutes of the half.
For Memphis, it was fifth-year forward DeAndre Williams who led the charge on offense. Temple had no answer for Williams at any spot on the floor, allowing him to convert on seven of his 10 first half field goals, while grabbing six rebounds and forcing multiple Temple ball handlers into travels and double dribbles.
Just when Memphis pulled away with their largest lead of the half, a three-point shot from forward Zach Hicks and a pair of driving layups from Miller helped Temple enter the half trailing by just three points.
In the second half, the careless mistakes continued for Temple. Multiple turnovers in the first two minutes of the period resulted in a 7-0 run for Memphis that put them up by 10 just two minutes into the second half.
After back-to-back three-pointers from Battle and Hicks that seemed to get Temple back into the game, the Owls’ defense collapsed. An alley-oop lob from Williams to forward Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu and a pair of mid range jumpers from Williams and guard Kendric Davis halted Temple’s comeback effort.
Just when it seemed like Memphis was going to run away with the victory, Temple punched back again. An 10-0 run that included back-to-back threes from Battle and Hicks helped the Owls cut an 18 point deficit to just four, but a pair of layups from Tigers’ guard Jayden Hardaway put the game out of reach.
The loss hurts Temple’s chances of regaining their spot as a top two seed in the conference tournament, but they are still in prime position to earn a first round bye. The Owls currently hold the conference’s fourth seed, but with big matchups against Tulane (16-7, 9-3 The American) and Cincinnati (17-9, 8-5 The American) on the horizon, Temple still has enough time to climb back up the standings.
The Owls will look to get back on track and move up the conference standings when they return home to face Wichita State (12-12, 5-7 The American) on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.
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