Written By: Drew Bishop
Photo Courtesy of: Temple Men’s Basketball Twitter
On Thursday versus Cincinnati, the Owls shot better, rebounded better, and got better looks than their opponent. And with 13.7 seconds left, down three points, with possession, Temple had a chance at overtime.
Aaron McKie rallied his players behind the bench to draw up the biggest play of the game, as viewers pondered who would take the final shot. Would it be Damian Dunn? Khalif Battle? This was a new situation for the team, determining who would be “the guy” in the waning moments of a tight game.
Out of the timeout, Cincinnati doubled point guard Jeremiah Williams, leaving Brendan Barry to take it up the floor. Once across midcourt, Barry faced an extra defender off a pick from JP Moorman. To his left, Barry spotted the sophomore Battle posted up on the perimeter. He sent a bounce pass to Battle, only for the young guard to mishandle the ball. He struggled, trying to regain possession, only for it to roll away towards the Bearcats’ bench, leaving Battle sprawled on the floor.
A quick turn of events and the energy vanished from the Temple sideline. Coaches and players sunk their shoulders after a potential season-defining play resulted in an ugly turnover. That moment served as a microcosm of the entire game, in which the Owls committed a season-high 19 turnovers.
The turnover problem is not a new demon for the Owls. It’s been their primary downfall up to this point in the year. Temple is averaging 14 turnovers per game over their past six games. In some matchups, the difference has been menial. On Thursday, however, turnovers were the difference between winning and losing.
|Points off turnovers||13||17||18||8||7||5|
This season for Temple Men’s Basketball was never expected to be perfect. Between an inexperienced freshman backcourt and an influx of transfers this offseason, some flaws were foreseen. Aaron McKie acknowledged that fact following the loss versus Cincinnati.
“They’ve got guys that have been there before. Some of their seniors, DeJulius, Williams, Vogt, those guys have been around the block. They’ve been in those situations. And I’m asking Khalif Battle, Damian Dunn, and Jeremiah Williams to respond to those situations. It’s been a struggle in that aspect for us, but those guys will learn a lot from those situations. As players, we all go through it. Some thrive in it and some it takes a little longer, but they’ll be better for it.”
Truth is, Temple has a lot of potential in its young backcourt. However, this is the first full collegiate season for guys like Jeremiah Williams and Damian Dunn. Khalif Battle has gone from averaging 11 minutes a game at Butler to a full 30 minutes off the bench for McKie. Some of these turnovers can be chalked up to development and learning experience versus a Cincinnati team that has frequented the NCAA Tournament.
However, that does not excuse a poor performance or a blown opportunity at a win. While coach McKie acknowledged the youth and inexperience of his team, he also made it clear postgame that this style of sloppy play is not their standard.
“It’s bothersome, you never want to beat yourself. We had so many uncharacteristic, unforced turnovers. Could be a lack of fundamentals or whatever the case may be. I didn’t think this team put a tremendous amount of pressure on us, I mean they have physical wings and guys that can get after you. But a lot of our turnovers are uncharacteristic and we must clean it up.”
Temple will need to solve this problem soon, as it continues to worsen over the past six games. If it extends, McKie will no longer be able to define the turnovers as “uncharacteristic.”
Not only do turnovers cost vital possessions, but they can also deflate a young team’s energy. On Thursday, Temple had a chance to flip the script and send it to overtime, but instead, just more of the same errors. Those dispirited attitudes were full-frontal following the loss and will continue if the problem is not fixed.
For now, the Owls will study film over the weekend in preparation for Sunday’s matchup against Wichita State. It will be their first road game in over three weeks, as they travel to Charles Koch Arena to face off against the Shockers at 3:00 PM.