Written by: Owen Boyle
Photo by: PAC-12
The Owls missed 13 free throws in their five-point loss to the USC Trojans on Saturday night.
“We lost the game on free throws,” Khalif Battle said. “I’m going to hold myself accountable.”
The Owls’ leading scorer was 5-9 from the line, but he wasn’t the only player to struggle. Jeremiah Williams failed to register a point on his three free throws, while Jake Forrester went 2-5.
The Owls shot 15-28 from the charity stripe in this one, a poor 53.6 percent. This included big misses early on and some big misses during crunch time. The cherry and white shot under 50 percent from the line in the second half.
Their second half struggles included Jeremiah Williams missing three of three after being fouled behind the arc and Khalif Battle missing a free throw that would have made it a five-point game with 1:45 remaining.
Battle was visibly frustrated by his miss, walking back on defense looking at the ground with his hands on his head. The New Jersey native emphasized the struggles postgame and continued to blame the loss on poor free throw shooting.
The game was filled with trips to the line, especially early on. Both teams dealt with foul trouble in the first half. There were 27 total fouls between the two teams in the first 20 minutes.
The Trojans found themselves in the bonus just eight minutes in and were in the double bonus with eight minutes left.
Luckily for the Owls, USC also struggled from the line. The Trojans were 18-27 in the game, but made their free throws when it mattered most.
The Owls have started slow from the line this year. They shot 9-16, for 56.3 percent against UMES. Jeremiah Williams struggled, shooting 1-5 from the line. He is now 1-8 on free throws this season.
Leading up to tonight’s game, the Owls had spent good portions of practice working on free throws. Coach McKie even set out time of his own to individually work with players on improving their free throw shooting.
“It’s a matter of making them when the lights come on,” Aaron Mickie said. “You need to be comfortable and relaxed at the line, that’s why they call them free throws. For some, they don’t come as easy.”
The Owls leading scorer against USC was seen practicing free throws an hour after the clock hit double zeros. Sage Tolbert was also practicing his free throw shooting well after the final buzzer.
I always tell the guys to envision themselves at the line with a chance to win or tie the game,” McKie said. “That’s the space you want to be mentally, blocking out everything.”
While there is only a small sample size, there is cause for concern when it comes to Temple’s struggles from the line. If the Owls want to separate themselves from other teams and compete in the AAC, they are going to have to drastically improve their free throw shooting.