Temple keeps Wichita State at bay in first conference win

Temple Men’s Basketball used a major first-half run to take the lead against the Shockers, but their tough defense preserved a 68-61 win at The Liacouras Center Sunday.

Guard Hysier Miller's 17 points proved to be crucial in Temple's 68-61 win against Wichita State Sunday at The Liacouras Center. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Men’s Basketball looked dead in the water with about eight minutes remaining in the first half of its matchup against Wichita State Sunday afternoon. The Owls trailed the Shockers 21-13 and needed a spark to keep the game from getting out of hand.

The Owls suddenly found life, and the team that shot less than 30 percent until that point started hitting their shots without looking back. They went on a 23-6 run to close the half and did not trail for the rest of the game en route to their first win in conference play.

Temple (8-7,1-1 American Athletic Conference) defeated Wichita State (8-7, 0-2 AAC) 68-61 on Sunday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. The Owls put on a show in their first home game in a month, and guard Hysier Miller hit four of Temple’s 12 threes to take control of the game after falling behind early.

“It was great just to be back home,” said Temple head coach Adam Fisher. “It’s been a long time since we’ve got to play here at home in front of our fans. You have to protect home court, and I’m just so proud of our guys because we went back to the basics when we got back from Hawaii.”

The Owls have struggled to shoot consistently this season, and Sunday was no different. They could not get shots to fall in the first half, finishing at 37 percent from the field in the game’s first 20 minutes. Forward Steve Settle III was the only player that made more than one shot for most of the half, and he scored six of his 17 points in the frame.

However, the Owls held the Shockers at bay and forced them to shoot only 12 percent from three. The Owls also helped force 12 Wichita State turnovers to keep within striking distance until they found their rhythm on offense.

“The best way to get easy buckets is to get your defense going, that was something we’ve focused on since being back from Hawaii,” Fisher said. “That’s been our focus and continues to be the staple in the foundation of our program.

Temple guard Jahlil White made his return to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a nagging hand injury, and he made an immediate impact.

White pulled up from three midway through Temple’s first-half run and, after a few bounces on the rim, the ball found its way to the bottom of the net, tying the game at 23. White contributed seven points off the bench and played strong defense throughout the contest.

“Me and Jahlil have been playing together for quite some time now, so we have good chemistry together,” Miller said. “He helps our team in many ways, some that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s been dealing with injuries his whole career, so I’m just happy for him to get back on the floor.”

Temple picked up where it left off after halftime, quickly extending its lead to 16 before the hot streak went ice cold. The Owls went on a three-minute scoreless stretch and the Shockers would chip away at the lead before Settle snapped the streak with 13 minutes left in the game.

After an off first-half, Miller found his groove in the second half of action. The leader of the Owls scored 12 of his 17 points including three makes from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes. Millers’ second half was key in keeping the Shockers at arm’s length.

“They had great rim protection, credit to them and I saw an opportunity in transition,” Miller said. “It just felt natural, felt like a shot I shoot every day. So I just knew I wanted to make that shot for my team.”

The Shockers pulled within one with two-and-a-half minutes remaining after forward Kenny Pohtos hit two free throws, 12 second-half points, but they started missing shots in the late stages of the game. Wichita State did not score after those free throws, and Settle’s career-high sixth steal put the game on ice.

“Just trying to play with activity to kind of affect the game,” Settle said. “You might not always be scoring but just trying to make sure that you might have an impact on a game.”

The Owls will be back home when they face East Carolina (7-7, 0-1 AAC) on Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at The Liacouras Center.

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