Temple Men’s Basketball (6-6, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) lost to the University of Mississippi (8-3, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) 63-55 on Saturday night in Oxford, Mississippi. After being on the wrong side of a scoring run late in the second half of their unexpected loss to the University of Pennsylvania (6-7, 0-0 Ivy League) on Dec. 10, the Owls went cold yet again in the closing minutes, finding themselves victim to a 11-2 run.
It was the first of many games in the coming weeks the Owls will play without sophomore forward Jamille Reynolds, who will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing right thumb surgery. Graduate forward Kur Jongkuch started at forward, while sophomore forward Nick Jourdain saw increased playing time and sophomore center Emmanuel Okpomo received his first minutes of the season.
As a team, the Owls shot just less than 36 percent from the field in the first half. Despite their early struggles, the Rebels shot an even worse 27 percent while going two for 13 from beyond the arc in the half.
A mid-range jump shot from redshirt sophomore guard Damian Dunn nearly six minutes into the game gave the Owls their first lead of the night. A pair of threes from sophomore forward Zach Hicks and 10 points from redshirt sophomore Khalif Battle helped Temple hold the lead for the remainder of the half and enter halftime leading 27-24.
In the second half, the Owls maintained a narrow lead in the opening minutes, but an and-one layup from freshman guard TJ Caldwell gave the Rebels their first lead since the early stages of the first half.
The Owls began to feel the absence of Reynolds’ presence down low in the back end of the second half. Hicks finished the contest as Temple’s leading rebounder with seven, but Ole Miss still won the rebounding battle 46-34.
After several minutes of back-and-forth play, the Owls allowed the game to fall out of reach in the closing minutes for the second consecutive game.
The Owls also struggled to convert on open looks, a problem that has plagued them throughout the season thus far. Battle made just four of his 17 field goal attempts, while sophomore guard Jahlil White missed multiple open three-point shots.
Trips to the free throw line from Dunn, White and Jourdain late in the second half allowed the Owls to cut the Rebels’ lead to just three, but a layup from Rebels senior forward Myles Burns put the game away with under a minute remaining.
Although their chances at receiving an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament were likely already gone, the loss all but confirms the Owls will need to hope for an American Athletic Conference championship to earn an automatic bid and fulfill their preseason tournament hopes.
The Owls will look to get back in the win column when they close their out-of-conference schedule against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (4-7, 0-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) on Dec. 20 at The Liacouras Center.