Temple University Men’s Basketball (10-8, 4-1 American Athletic Conference) defeated the University of Tulsa (4-11, 0-4 The American) 76-72 on Tuesday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After allowing 87 points in their first conference loss of the season against Tulane University (10-5, 3-1 The American) on Jan. 7, the Owls bounced back tonight, moving to 4-1 in conference play.
For the fifth consecutive game, redshirt sophomore guards Khalif Battle and Damian Dunn, the Owls’ two leading scorers on the season, came off the bench after the first media timeout. After starting five-of-six from the field with two three-pointers, Dunn was ejected from the game in the closing minutes of the first half following a questionable flagrant two call.
The Owls fell behind in the opening minutes, but quickly got back in front after a 20-7 run that was propelled by a three-point barrage from Battle, Dunn, sophomore forward Zach Hicks and sophomore guard Shane Dezonie.
The Owls made nine of their 19 three-point attempts in the first half, with Hicks accounting for four of them. The team shot an impressive 56 percent from the field in the half while holding Tulsa to just 40 percent.
The Owls led by as much as 20 in the first half, but technical free throws following Dunn’s ejection and a goaltending call against Temple helped Tulsa narrow the deficit to 14 entering halftime.
The Owls were unable to score with the same efficiency in the second half. A converted three-pointer from Tulsa sophomore guard Anthony Pritchard and a converted layup from sophomore forward Bryant Selebangue helped cut the Temple lead to just five.
Shortly after, sophomore forward Jahlil White became the second Owl to be ejected from the game following a double technical foul that gave Tulsa four free throw attempts. A three-point shot from junior guard Sam Griffin gave the Golden Hurricane their first lead since the opening minutes of the contest and erased what was once a 20 point lead for Temple.
Several minutes of back-and-forth play, consistent makes at the free throw line and a three-pointer from Battle helped Temple put together a 9-2 run and jump out to an eight point lead. Back-to-back converted and-one plays by the Golden Hurricane cut the Owls’ lead to just three points late in the game, but a late game trip to the free throw line helped put the game away.
With Dunn and White absent following their ejections, Dezonie and sophomore center Emmanuel Okpomo both excelled while playing extended minutes down the stretch. Dezonie finished the game with a season high nine points across 18 minutes, shooting two-of-three from the field. Okpomo picked up eight rebounds while shooting an efficient three-of-four.
It might be too early to start paying attention to the conference standings, but only the University of Houston (16-1, 4-0 The American), the top-ranked team in the country, has as many conference wins as Temple in the early stages of conference play. If the Owls want any chance at winning the conference tournament to clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament, a strong seeding placement will go a long way in improving their chances.
The Owls will look to keep building momentum and improve their conference record when they return home to host the University of Memphis (12-4, 2-1 The American) on Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.
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