Temple tops Tulane 65-57 behind Forrester, strong defense

In Temple’s opening possession of the second half, senior forward JP Moorman worked his way open into a short jumper that clanked itself off the rim. Seemingly boxed out, junior forward Jake Forrester used his size and physicality to gain positioning and tipped the ball through the bucket for a putback layup.

The play ignited a quick start to the second half where the Owls were able to capitalize quickly offensively and used strong team defense to keep Tulane from scoring a bucket for the first 9:56 of the second half. The stretch led to Temple (3-3, 2-3) knocking off Tulane (6-4, 1-4) 65-57 in New Orleans on Saturday afternoon.

Forrester played a key role in that, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds (12 points and eight rebounds in the second half alone), his second career double-double. 

“I just prioritized getting on the glass, heavily on the offensive glass and that opened up my game a lot more,” Forrester said postgame. “My coaches have been telling me that throughout the season and I finally put my nose down and said ‘This is exactly what I need to be doing.’” 

There were plenty of storylines off the court, as the game itself was a rescheduled matchup from earlier in the month and a few states away from where the Owls were originally slated to suit up on Saturday.

The AAC decided on Thursday afternoon to have the teams play once both teams’ opponents went into pauses for COVID-19 (ECU for Temple, Cincinnati for Tulane). Adding to the chaos was the announcement that Tulane head coach Ron Hunter would be watching from home as he quarantined following exposure to someone positive with COVID-19.

As for what happened on the floor, the Owls looked in sync on defensive rotations and forced Tulane into a lot of difficult shots, reminiscent of their performance just 48 hours earlier against UCF. 

“I thought the guys did a pretty good job,” Temple head coach Aaron McKie said of his team’s defense. “In the first half, (Tulane) started making some shots, but they were tough shots.”

McKie also touted the team’s ability to take away Tulane’s leading scorer Jaylen Forbes, who scored 14 points but only managed to score four points on 1-7 shooting in the second half. The Green Wave as a whole missed their first 15 shots from the field and shot 9-34 (26.5%) from the field in the second half. 

In addition to their struggles offensively, Tulane could not match the Owls’ work on the glass. Temple outrebounded the Green Wave by a wide margin, 48-32, with six Owls finishing with five or more rebounds. Individually, Moorman had another impressive day on the boards with 9 as the senior forward has pulled down 9.8 rebounds in his last four games. 

Forrester was the leading rebounder with 10 and his overall work inside helped spark plug a Temple offense that got stagnant at times throughout the game. It was the first time that the Owls have seen the junior forward’s prowess on full display this season, mainly due to persistent foul trouble in the season’s first five games. 

“We wanted to play inside-out versus these guys, we thought we had a size advantage,” McKie said of the game plan going into the game. “Our advantage was getting the ball inside to Jake to soften that defense up…Jake did a good job being active in there…We were able to get his minutes up.”

“We were expecting Jake to have a pretty big game and his energy just brought so much to us and everything a lot easier for everyone…Creating space, rolling hard and attacking the rim,” redshirt freshman Damian Dunn said postgame. “He was a key factor and, I think, the biggest factor in our win.”

Dunn had an impressive game himself, putting up 18 points to go along with seven rebounds. The 6-5 guard has been the Owls leading scorer in four of the team’s six games. His backcourt mate, freshman guard Jeremiah Williams also filled up the stat sheet with five points, five assists and five rebounds.

Overall, it was probably the most complete game by the starting lineup thus far this season. The group came out of the gate rolling, leading 15-4 by the first media timeout, knocking down their first five attempts from the field. They also accounted for 56 of the team’s 65 points, their highest output as a group since the season opener against NJIT. 

That punch in the mouth gave Temple the breathing room it needed throughout the rest of the first half in which they struggled as a team. One of the main reasons for those struggles continues to be turnovers, as the team had 14 in Saturday’s game and is now averaging 13.5 per contest.

“The turnovers that we are having are just careless,” McKie said. “It’s not like this team had pressured us…our turnovers are careless and that’s something we’ll watch and try to make sure we value the ball.”

In a season where the words “future” and “progress” have been preached every step of the way, Temple got a look at another key cog of this program’s development as sophomore guard Khalif Battle saw his first action as a member of the Owls. While not particularly impressive, the transfer guard seemed to hold his own getting up and down the floor following an extended absence with a hamstring injury.

Battle, who transferred from Butler over the summer, finished with three points from the charity stripe and six rebounds. He did commit four personal fouls and missed all four of his shot attempts, but showed some confidence in his shot and didn’t back down defensively.

“He’s another offensive threat and gives us more spacing,” McKie said. “It’s going to take him some time to get comfortable out there, playing with those guys.”

It wasn’t always pretty, but Temple got the job done. As the Owls boarded a plane back to Philadelphia, they have now notched back-to-back wins for the first time since last February and will prepare to host a struggling Cincinnati (3-7, 1-4) squad coming out of COVID-19 quarantine at the Liacouras Center. The game is set for 9:00 pm on Wednesday.

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