The noise of a referee’s whistle. Piercing and pronounced in an arena that remained largely empty.
The sound echoes a little louder when the call plays a determining role in the game’s ending.
Senior forward J.P. Moorman attempted to back his way towards the basket as the Owls through a late-game set in the final twenty five seconds of Sunday afternoon’s game with Temple trailing by two. The referees deemed it an offensive foul, particularly surprising for a group that had let the team play for most of the afternoon.
It wasn’t the only deciding factor, but it was a key one as Temple (4-7, 3-7) fell 70-67 to Wichita State (11-4, 7-2) at Charles Koch Arena. Despite a much more fine tuned approach down the stretch, the Owls lost a second straight game by one possession.
“I just think, late in the game like that, let them play,” Temple head coach Aaron McKie said. “Let’s not decide the game like that, but they made the call. We obviously have to honor it. So, it is what it is.”
The similarities between Sunday’s loss and Thursday’s loss against Cincinnati are striking.
Lackluster offensive performance in the first half. A second half run that propelled the Owls into the lead. Opponent comes back, goes on a run to force the Owls into a late game run. Nearly even until the opponent gets control in the final two minutes. Game ends on a Khalif Battle heave from three.
Surface level, the quick recap seems the same, but the way the results came to be do not mirror one another. Especially in the turnover battle which has been one of the most frustrating aspects of Temple’s season.
In Sunday’s matchup, the Owls committed a season-low eight turnovers. Guards Damian Dunn and Jeremiah Williams combined for only one turnover while both thoroughly impressing on both sides of the floor.
“It’s our first year together, we’re still learning each other, still learning how, our strengths, our weaknesses,” Dunn said of the ever-evolving work as a team, especially in the latter portion of the game.
Dunn scored a season-high 22 points, going a perfect 12-12 from the free throw line. His aggression on the offensive end didn’t stop with scoring as he pulled down four offensive rebounds.
As for Williams, he scored 11 points, marking the first time that the freshman has scored double figures in back to back games in his young career. His two steals also marked the fourth time this season that he’s nabbed multiple steals in a game.
“We played good enough to win, as I said, a ball here, a ball there,” McKie said postgame. He harped specifically on a Wichita State offensive rebound late that allowed a second chance opportunity as well as the aforementioned Moorman offensive foul as the two crucial things that lost the Owls the game.
Wichita State’s Tyson Etienne had an efficient night, putting up 20 points and five assists for the Shockers. Supplementing him was a season-best 12 points from Trey Wade, something that Aaron McKie pointed to as a key difference.
Temple struggled from the three point arc again. The Owls made just three of the 19 attempts they fired up against Wichita State and are now shooting 16-65 (24.6%) from beyond in their last three games.
McKie said postgame the three point shooting was absolutely a factor in the team’s loss and that it’s really about the guys continuing to be confident in their shots.
Up next is another AAC team that struggles to shoot the three ball as the Owls host ECU on Thursday night at 7pm.