Temple’s Second Half Comeback Falls Short Against USC

Written by: Jake Gabel

Photo by: Owls Sports

Philadelphia, Pa – After USC dominated the first half, Temple made a huge run of its own after halftime, but still ultimately came up just short, losing 76-71 to the Trojans. 

Things got physical quickly. There were 19 fouls committed by both teams in the first 14 minutes of the game. The Owls with 12 fouls, the Trojans with seven. The first half ended with 27 total fouls, 15 by the Owls, 12 from USC. 

Temple had more fouls in the first half than they did in their first game of the season against UMES. Temple had 14 fouls total in their 72-49 win against the Hawks. 

One of the fouls on Owls’ guard Damian Dunn didn’t sit well with the Temple crowd, as it appeared he was elbowed in the face by USC’s Isaiah White. The play was reviewed but the foul on Dunn stood.  

The Trojans led at halftime 46-27. USC forward Chevez Goodwin and White each had nine points at the half. Dunn led Temple with 8 points.

The points in the paint was the difference maker in the first half, with Temple only scoring eight points in the paint in the first 20 minutes. Meanwhile, USC dominated the interior during the first half, with 28 of their 46 first half points coming in the paint. The Trojans first 12 points were all scored inside as well. 

Temple head coach Aaron McKie believes that the Owls’ early foul trouble made it even easier for the Trojans to continue to score in the paint throughout the game. 

“I love the aggression, but we got a little undisciplined and just tried to go for steals, getting ourselves in foul trouble,” McKie said. “It opened the paint up for those guys to get easy baskets. Defensively we have got to stay disciplined.” 

In the second half, Temple got off to a 22-3 run to get themselves back into the game. Temple guard Khalif Battle led the charge, scoring 11 points during the Owl’s comeback. Battle’s 11 came from three, three-pointers and a thunderous fast break dunk. 

Owls’ forward Nick Jourdain did it all in the second half. Jourdain had five points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals, and two blocks in the second half alone. The freshman ended up fouling out with just over a minute left.

According to Jourdain, switching everything on defense in the second half led to the team’s defensive success. 

“Overall, it was mainly our defense and hustling for offensive rebounds,” Jourdain said. “Both me and Sage (Tolbert III) just crashed the boards and just gave it our all and were having that sense of urgency.” 

Jourdain and Battle played AAU basketball together in high school. After the game, Battle went out of his way in the post-game press conference to make sure everyone knew how proud he was of his teammate.

“The change that I’ve seen from junior year of high school when we played AAU together to now, it’s like night and day,” Battle said. “You know I shouldn’t be smiling after the game and all that, but I’m really proud of this guy next to me, my roommate, that’s my brother off the court. But when I come into the gym, I know he’s going to be there.” 

True freshman forward Zach Hicks hit a huge three with 50 seconds left to cut the Trojan lead to 74-70. Battle was fouled with 9.9 seconds left, and made one of two free throws to make it a 74-71 game. 

Trying to inbound the ball, Trojan Isaiah Mobley got it to teammate Drew Peterson. Peterson was fouled and ended up making both free throws to ice the game. 

Free throws were a struggle for the Owls all game, going 15-28 from the charity stripe. Less than an hour after the game in the empty Liacouras Center, Battle and forward Sage Tolbert III were back to putting in work. They both practiced their shooting, specifically from the foul line. 

“We’re just as good as anybody, I believe. And we can fight against anybody. I think when the team figured that out, fight came,” Battle said. “But I think we just lost the game on the free-throw line.” 

Battle led all scorers with 26 points. Battle was the only Owl to get into the double digits in points. Goodwin was the high man for USC with 19 points on 8-10 shooting. 

The win for the Trojans puts them at 2-0 to start the year, they look to stay unbeaten when they travel to play Florida Gulf Coast in their next matchup. 

As for the Owls, they fall to 1-1 on the season. Their next matchup is against Clemson in the first round of the Charleston Classic. The game is on Nov. 18 at 4 p.m.

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