Written by: Adam Crognale
Photo by: Mike Zingrone
An emotional Quinton Rose spoke to the media for the final time inside the Al Shrier Media Room on Wednesday night following a disappointing 61-51 loss to Tulsa.
“We just gotta keep pushing,” Rose said.
Wednesday night’s loss wasn’t just Temple’s seventh home loss of the season. It was also the final time the seniors would ever play at the Liacouras Center.
Senior’s Quinton Rose and Alani Moore II have started every game together this season, and each has played a large role in the team’s success. Moore II has shot nearly 40 percent from three all year, and Rose is currently the all-time leader in points and steals in the history of the American Athletic Conference.
Unfortunately for the Owls and the two guards, senior night did not go according to plan.
Moore II shot 14 percent from the field (1-7) and Rose wasn’t much better shooting just under 29 percent (4-14).
“I thought we were flat,” Coach Aaron McKie said. “A lot of that comes from the offensive side of the floor. … I thought we had a lot of miscues. I thought it came from a lack of focus from not being able to score on the offensive side.”
“We still have to give them (Tulsa) credit,” Rose said. “They’re the number one team in the league.
“It was difficult,” Rose added. “Their match-up zone was really good.”
As a team, Temple shot under 30 percent from the field, 23 percent from three, and 61 percent from the line. The team also had 13 turnovers in the game. Tulsa led at one point by 20 in the second half, but good defense down the stretch from Temple made the final score a little bit closer.
Beyond the game, senior night brought other emotions into play.
In addition to Rose and Moore II, Damion Moore, Tim Waddington, and Anto Keshgegian were also playing in their final home game at Temple.
“It’s very emotional,” Rose said. “You know it’s your last game, but it doesn’t really hit you until you get subbed out at the end, and then when the final buzzer sounds. I got a lot of emotions right now.
“Just coming in here everyday with those guys,” Rose added. “Practicing in here and playing in here. They’re all good memories.”
“Before the game, I didn’t even really think about it,” Moore said. “I just feel that I’m going to miss my teammates and miss being out there at the Liacouras Center.”
“We spend a lot of time with these guys,” McKie said. “For me as a coach you’re judged on wins and losses, but just the behind the scenes stuff and talking to those guys about their hopes and dreams and what they want to do in life, that’s important to me. It’s important to me to watch them graduate. It’s important to me to watch them grow into men and just evolve. I’m very competitive and I do get rapped into winning basketball games because that’s a part of my job, but these are kids that I coach and I care a great deal about them.”
Both Waddington and Keshgegian only saw the court for the final 15 seconds of the game, but McKie wished it had been a different story.
“I wish I could’ve played them more,” McKie said. “I really appreciate what those guys have done for this program behind the scenes. You guys don’t get an opportunity to see them play, but they just come to practice everyday ready to go, ready for the call. They do all the things that the scholarship players do, and they still maintain a high academic standard. … I wanted to reward them in some way and I didn’t get that opportunity.”
Temple still has one more game on the road this Saturday at Cincinnati before the conclusion of its season. The Bearcats currently rank third in the conference and have already beaten the Owls once this year at the Liacouras Center in January.
Coach McKie likes to break down the season into three parts, and according to him the Owls still have one more part of their season to complete after Saturday’s game.
“There’s three seasons of basketball,” McKie said. “You have your early part of the year, your conference play, and then you have your conference championships and NCAA tournament and things of that nature. That’s the beauty of playing in these conference championships because you get another opportunity.”
The AAC Tournament kicks off on March 12, in Fort Worth, Texas. Temple is not favored to make it far in the tournament, and the team will finish as high as the 8-seed or as low as the 10-seed when the season concludes.
As a player, Aaron McKie knew what it took to win in an NCAA tournament. Most famously, he was a part of the 1993 Temple basketball team that went to the Elite Eight in March.
In 2020, McKie will have his first chance to be a head coach in March, and he seems to already have the right mindset in place.
“I really feel that anyone can win the American,” McKie said.