Midway through the second half, the Owls and Green Wave were locked into a 58-58 game.
The Owls sparked a 10-0 run off the back of a six-point Green Wave possession due to two Temple technical fouls. The Liacouras Center’s energized crowd actually seemed enthused by a game for the first time since Temple’s 68-64 victory against Villanova University on Nov. 11.
However, Temple did not keep up with Tulane’s pace of play down the stretch, and struggles at the free throw line ultimately haunted the Owls.
Temple Men’s Basketball (9-8, 3-1 The American Athletic Conference) was defeated by Tulane University (10-5, 3-1 The American) 87-76 on Saturday afternoon, moving the Owls to 3-1 in conference play so far this season.
“They’re a really good offensive team,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “It’s going to test your defense, it’s going to test your principles.”
The Owls started the first five minutes of the game with an 8-2 run. Sophomores Nick Jourdain, Zach Hicks and Jahlil White each hit mid-range jumpers and the Owls’ defense forced misses from the Green Wave. Hicks went on to finish the game with 16 points and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“Today I was a little more locked in than last game,” Hicks said.
Temple’s size provided defensive mismatches throughout the contest. White and redshirt sophomore guard Khalif Battle defended Tulane’s 6-foot sophomore guard Jalen Cook most of the afternoon. Meanwhile, Temple redshirt sophomore guard Damian Dunn was able to take Cook down low on several occasions for easy baskets.
However, Cook’s passing caused issues for the Owls. After late movement on switches and ineffective close-outs, Cook found open teammates late in the shot clock for threes during the first half.
Tulane easily climbed out of the six-point deficit and a stretch of Temple misses allowed the Green Wave to go on a 7-0 run and take a 21-17 lead.
After more back-and-forth action, Tulane eventually entered the half with a 35-34 lead, scoring 32 points in the final 15 minutes of the period. Temple’s Dunn and Tulane junior forward Kevin Cross were effective offensively early on, with each scoring in double digits.
In the paint, the Owls continued to feel the absence of sophomore center Jamille Reynolds’ thumb injury. Reynolds could have helped Temple inside against a smaller Tulane team.
Temple’s passing was the key element to counter Tulane head coach Ron Hunter’s quick defense. Tulane’s lack in size was offset by frequent movement and trickery on the defensive end.
While some of Temple’s baskets came off of isolation plays, many stemmed from lots of ball movement and finding open shooters or slashers.
This trend continued in the second half as the Owls were tied at 40 with the Green Wave after four minutes. Temple slowed the pace of play and relied on open mid-range looks or buckets inside instead of their typical quick threes seen through their first 16 games.
The two Temple technical fouls, one on White and one on coach McKie, provided a small Tulane momentum shift. Tulane junior guard Jaylen Forbes converted all four free throws and junior forward Collin Holloway hit a floater on the same possession.
“I was upset with some of the things that was going on during the course of the game,” McKie said about his technical foul in the second half. “I lost my poise a little bit and hurt our team.”
Once Temple’s crowd was on their feet and chants began throughout the arena, the Owls’ energy sparked a subsequent 7-0 run of their own where Battle had an electric transition dunk followed by a corner Dunn three-pointer.
“We were moving it well,” Dunn said. “Getting the early stops and pushing the ball up the floor early.”
Following Temple’s run, Tulane went on an 11-0 run of their own. The three scoring runs brought the game to 69-64 with more than five minutes remaining.
Tulane sat atop the conference in scoring entering today’s contest, averaging 80.8 points per game, and their quick scoring plays down low showed how lethal of a team they are offensively.
Tulane’s scoring surge did not stop there. The Green Wave ended the game by outscoring the Owls 11-7 in the final three minutes, hitting all three of their final attempts from the field. The Green Wave shot 49.2 percent from the field in the game.
Next, the Owls head to the Donald W. Reynolds Center to take on the University of Tulsa (4-10, 0-3 The American) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 10.
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