Temple Loses Heartbreaker to SMU on Last-Second Free Throw

Written by: Jake Gabel

Photo by: Andrew Mayo

University Park, TX – Temple men’s basketball (14-11, 8-4 American Athletic Conference) fell to Southern Methodist (9-14, 4-8 AAC) 72-71 on the road to lose their second-consecutive game. 

Temple guard Khalif Battle’s game-high 27 points was not enough for the Owls. 

Sophomore guard Zhuric Phelps led the Mustangs with 19 points. Phelps hit the would-be game-winning free throw to break the 71-71 tie with three seconds left after missing his first attempt at the line. 

They say basketball is a game of runs, and the first half was a perfect example. SMU started the game on a 19-2 run in the first seven minutes. During that stretch, Temple had eight fouls and six turnovers. 

Then came the Owls’ run. Over the next 11 minutes, Temple went on a 28-8 run. The Owls were able to briefly take the lead. The first half ended with an ordinary score of 32-30 in favor of SMU. However, the way both teams got to their scores was anything but ordinary. 

“I’m baffled by that too,” Temple head coach Aaron McKie said. “I thought we had a good shootaround and guys had good lather ready to go, and they just came out and punched us in the mouth.” 

At halftime, Battle was the only player on either side in double-figures with 11 points. SMU, meanwhile, had nine different players score in the first half, compared to five players for Temple. 

The second half was a back-and-forth affair that stayed tight the entire way. The largest lead of the half was when the Mustangs led the Owls by six points. Phelps and Battle both had huge performances after halftime. 

Phelps had 14 of his 19 points in the second half. Battle had 16 points in the second half, including a jaw-dropping three-pointer about 10 feet behind the three-point line. That deep three would give Temple a 67-66 lead with 4:23 to go. 

That was the Owl’s last lead of the game. 

SMU’s next five points would all come off of free throws. Temple would get a turnaround jumper from guard Damian Dunn and a layup from sophomore guard Hysier Miller to tie the game at 71 with 11 seconds remaining. 

The Mustangs went to Phelps, their leading scorer on the season, with the game on the line. Phelps picked up his dribble and gave an awkward pump fake that got Battle to go up in the air on defense. Battle made contact with Phelps on the way down as Phelps shot with three seconds left.  

Turnovers plagued the Owls throughout the game, ending with 19. Temple averages just under 14 turnovers a game. Another problem for Temple was fouls. SMU shot 30 free throws compared to Temple’s 20. 

“We had opportunities, but the turnovers killed us,” McKie said. “We played undisciplined. We’re fouling, put them on the line 30 times. Can’t win like that on the road. With all that being said, we still had an opportunity to win this game, and I struggle with that.” 

Sophomore guard Jahlil White, who has started 16 games including this game, only played 19 minutes. After the game, McKie revealed that White’s tailbone has been bothering him, and that played a factor in him playing fewer minutes than usual. 

SMU is now 7-1 all-time against Temple in Moody Coliseum, its home arena.

The Owls fell to fourth in the AAC after being in second just two games ago. Their next matchup is a big one, taking on third-place Memphis (18-6, 8-3 AAC). That game will be in Memphis on Sunday, February 12. Tip-off is at noon, and the game will be aired on ESPN2.


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