Temple holds on to beat USF in overtime

Temple Men’s Basketball defeated the University of South Florida 79-76 Wednesday night at The Liacouras Center.

Sophomore Nick Jordain's huge dunk gave the Owls the lead with less than a minute left in Temple's overtime win over the University of South Florida. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Men’s Basketball (13-9, 7-2 American Athletic Conference) defeated the University of South Florida (9-12, 2-6 The American) 79-76 in overtime on Wednesday night at The Liacouras Center. After knocking off Houston, the nation’s top ranked team, on Jan. 22, the Bulls gave the Owls all they could handle, but Temple snuck away with their third consecutive conference victory.

“Definitely wasn’t our best performance coming off the big win,” said redshirt sophomore Damian Dunn. “Thought we could have been a little bit more electric after our big win and have our energy translate early but it didn’t but we just had to find a way.”

After Temple led by as many as 10 late in the second half, a pair of baskets by fifth-year forward Keyshawn Bryant and an and-one basket from junior center Russel Tchewa helped USF tie the game with just more than a minute remaining, sending the game to overtime.

Redshirt sophomore guard Khalif Battle played hero ball in overtime, scoring seven of the Owls’ nine points in the period, while also adding a pass that set up sophomore forward Nick Jourdain to score the game-winning dunk with less than a minute remaining. 

“[Battle] is doing what we need him to do,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “When his shot hasn’t been falling for the last few games but he made some today. Tonight was one of his better games in a while offensively but we are still gonna need him to continue to be a playmaker.”

Temple struggled to knock down shots during the first half of the opening period. After jumping out to an early lead following three-point shots from sophomores Zach Hicks and Hysier Miller, the Owls went nearly seven minutes without a field goal, allowing USF to take a narrow lead late in the half.

In the closing minutes of the half, both teams found a rhythm. A pull up jumper from Battle and a three-pointer from Dunn put Temple up late, but a three from Bulls’ fifth-year guard Tyler Harris sent the contest into halftime tied at 34.

“Pick it up, that’s what I said to them at halftime,” McKie said. “You gotta play with a little more urgency and they responded.”

The Owls benefited from the return of sophomore forward Jamille Reynolds, who missed just more than six weeks with a thumb injury and joined Battle and Dunn coming off the bench at the first media timeout.

In his first minute on the floor, Reynolds blocked a shot from Bulls’ sophomore forward Sam Hines Jr. Shortly after, the sophomore forward drove to the basket and converted on a contested layup from underneath the basket. Despite his highly-anticipated return, it was graduate student forward Kur Jongkuch who stole the show in the low post, collecting seven rebounds with five coming on the offensive side. 

“[Jongkuch] did a great job today,” Jourdain said. “He was talking on defense, he was loud, playing hard, running the floor, so I think that energy we are both bringing to the table, it helped us on the offensive glass.”

The victory allowed Temple to maintain its second-place position in the AAC standings. With Memphis (15-5, 5-2 The American) and Cincinnati (14-7, 5-3 The American) right behind them in the standings, the Owls must continue to win games down the stretch to secure a strong seeding placement in the conference tournament.

The Owls will look to continue building their conference resume and sustain momentum going when they travel to Orlando, Florida, to take on the University of Central Florida (13-7, 4-4 The American) on Jan. 28 at noon.

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