Written by: Chris Duong
Photo by: Position Sports
Temple Men’s Basketball (2-3) fell to St. John’s University (5-0) 78-72 at the Barclays Center, losing their first game of the Empire Classic.
With 8:55 left in the game, St. John’s senior center Joel Soriano blocked Temple guard Damian Dunn. Soriano looked up the court and found redshirt-senior Montez Mathis for an easy layup, expanding the Red Storm’s lead to six points. St. John’s had converted five out of their last six baskets, causing Temple head coach Aaron McKie to call a timeout.
“You have got to be able to get those critical stops at those critical times and we didn’t do it,” McKie said.
St. Johns played strict on-ball man-to-man defense, causing Temple to turn the basketball over 21 times. Those turnovers led to several key runs throughout the game, which eventually helped the Red Storm win the game.
“I think their strength is in numbers,” McKie said about St. Johns’ pressure defense. “They can shuffle the house out. They are equally athletic and gifted with lateral movement and timing and all of those sorts of things are what they want to do in those 40 minutes.”
Temple guard Khalif Battle came off of the bench for the Owls with 16:38 left in the first half when sophomore guard Jahlil White picked up an early personal foul. Despite airballing his first shot, Battle finished the night with 17 points.
The Red Storm capped off a 20-5 run to take the lead at the end of the first half when Soriano dunked on Temple graduate forward Kur Jongkuch and then blocked a Battle shot on the defensive end. Soriano led St. Johns with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
After the first half, junior forward Jamille Reynolds came out of the locker room demanding the basketball in the paint, scoring 10 straight points for the Owls.
Reynolds played a key role in trying to maintain Soriano’s big frame, causing Soriano to pick up three fouls early in the second half. Reynolds led all scorers with a career-high 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field.
With 1:15 remaining in the game, Andre Curbelo capitalized on a fast break by converting an and-one, giving St. Johns a 73-72 lead.
St. Johns had four players in double figures, including Mathis adding 16 points, Curbelo with 13 points, and junior forward David Jones tallied 14 points.
“We just need to get more consistent on both ends of the floor,” McKie said.
The Owls return to action tonight against the University of Richmond (2-3) at 7:00 pm.