Written By: Drew Bishop
Photo Courtesy of: Temple Men’s Basketball Twitter
Skidding on a four-game losing streak, and the bad news keeps coming for Temple Men’s Basketball.
Five minutes before Tuesday’s matchup against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, it was announced that freshman guard Damian Dunn would be out.
After last week’s loss to Cincinnati, head coach Aaron McKie revealed that Dunn had a knee injury early in the first half. He tried to persevere through it but logged only 12 minutes and was absent from the second half.
Fast forward to Wednesday, and that same injury forced Dunn to suit up in warm-up clothes for the evening.
In the recipe for Temple’s success, Dunn is one of the most vital ingredients. He had just come off his third AAC Freshman of the Week honor prior to the injury.
The leading scorer for the Owls at 13.8 ppg, Dunn provides the invaluable service of scoring when the team needs it the most. Against Tulsa, it was a service the team sorely missed.
This season, Temple has not been known to start fast, but it was to be expected without Dunn. The team recorded their lowest first-half total (22) since January 23rd versus #6 ranked Houston.
The team also struggled to take care of the basketball, as they shot 33% from the field and added 13 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
Dunn’s ability to draw a foul at any moment is crucial in situations like these. In a tough, defensive matchup against the Golden Hurricane, a couple of free throws rather than a turnover could have made a difference. For more on Dunn’s role as a primary scorer, click here.
Another effect of Dunn’s absence was the additional minutes for other guards. As most teams do, Temple employed the “next man up” mentality to replace Dunn’s efforts. Firstly, Khalif Battle got the start in Dunn’s stead. He responded to the upgrade by collecting 21 points on 6-13 from the field and seven rebounds. Battle is the NCAA leader in reserve minutes at almost 30 mpg, so his role remained unchanged outside of the honor of starting.
However, the extra minute’s available expanded roles for a couple of prospect guards. Quincy Ademokoya, the freshman guard from Georgia, had his most minutes (18) since January 11th. He had a perfect day from the field (3/3) and scored 9 points.
Another player to step up was Tai Strickland. Strickland is a transfer from Wisconsin and hasn’t gotten as many looks as expected. On Tuesday, he had two points and one steal in six minutes. In a game that McKie only played nine men, Strickland’s time should not be underestimated.
These impacts are small in the micro-view of one game, but in the long run, Dunn’s injury can be considered a blessing in disguise for these younger guards’ development. Strickland and Ademokoya will continue to get more chances as long as the minutes are available. More opportunities mean more confidence built in the depths of the roster.
The absence of Damian Dunn undoubtedly had an impact on the team’s performance. It may have even been the difference between winning and losing. However, dwelling on the injury and its adverse effects is futile for the Owls.
According to McKie, Dunn is getting checked out once the team returns to Philadelphia. Until then, there’s no timetable for his return. For now, Temple will continue to play the “next man up” philosophy and give minutes to other guards.
The next chance for Ademokoya and Strickland to get time will be next Wednesday, Feb. 24, versus South Florida. The Bulls will travel to the Liacouras Center for tipoff at 7 p.m. Tune in to the live broadcast starting with pregame at 6:30.