Temple Shakes Off First-Half Rust, Wins Big in Season Opener

Written By: Jake Gabel

Photo Courtesy of: OwlSports.com

Philadelphia, Pa – The Temple Owls tipped off their season at home in the Liacouras Center with a 72-49 win against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks. It was a close game in the first half, but Temple dominated the second half behind stellar defense, holding the Hawks to 28% shooting from the field. 

Temple guard Khalif Battle led the Owls with 22 points while Da’Shawn Phillip led the Hawks with 11 points. 

The Owls got off to a hot start to the game gaining a 12 point lead at one point in the first half, with the score at 24-12. Then UMES went on a 12-2 run in the final 3:40 of the first half, making it a 26-25 Temple lead at half. 

Temple guard Damian Dunn led all scorers in the first half with 10 points. Temple had seven blocks at halftime as well, three coming from center Jake Forrester and two from forward Nick Jourdain. 

“I thought it was just the first game home jitters, not having played in front of fans at home last year,” Temple head coach Aaron Mckie said. “I want to chalk it up as having an out of body experience, I know for a fact that we are much better than what we displayed in the first half and we were just a step slow.  Our defense pretty much carried us until we started to make some shots.” 

To start the second half, the two teams traded the lead back and forth four times. Then, Temple got a spark off the bench from freshman forward Zach Hicks, when he made two consecutive threes. 

When Hicks first checked into the game, he mishandled a pass on his first touch of his college career. After that however, it was smooth sailing for the freshman, who finished with nine points, five rebounds and three assists in 15 minutes off the bench. 

“It was my first game, so I had a lot of jitters out there,” Hicks said. “So, when I came out here, he threw the ball to me, it just bounced off my hand. Coach always tells me to keep a short-term memory. The team was coming back so we needed a spark. I just wanted to play hard and if the opportunity struck, just keep shooting the ball.” 

The Owls started to gain momentum after that, outsourcing the Hawks 46 to 24 in the second half. Khalif Battle had a big game but an even better second half, scoring 15 of his 22 points. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first time since March of 2020 that Temple played a home game with fans in person to cheer them on.

“I feel like the crowd makes a big difference and the energy we get is an energy booster,” Battle said. “I hope they keep coming out to some more games.”. 

Owls’ guard Damian Dunn had a good game offensively, scoring 18 points. Another key scorer for Temple was redshirt sophomore guard Tai Strickland off of the bench. Strickland had 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting, and was a part of the bench unit along with Zach Hicks that scored 21 points and helped give Temple the victory. 

Another key contributor off the bench for Temple was freshman forward Nick Jourdain. Jourdain made his presence known on the glass and defensive side of the ball. He had a game high nine rebounds to go along with his two blocks. 

For UMES, they fall to 0-2 to start the season. They lost a heartbreaker the night prior against Saint Joseph’s University, losing 67-69. The UMES Hawks go back home and get ready to play Bryn Athyn on Saturday, Nov. 13. 

As for Temple, their next game is also scheduled for Saturday. They get ready to play a big game against the USC Trojans at the Liacouras Center. The Trojans will also go into that game 1-0. USC is coming off a trip to the Elite Eight in last season’s March Madness Tournament. Tip Off is at 7p.m.

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