Miles Bailey, OwlSports Update
Two of the Owls best scorers in Jeremiah Williams and Damian Dunn were on the bench nursing injuries Wednesday night. Without those two players, the Owls (14-9, 7-5) still managed to beat the American Athletic Conference’s second-best team in the SMU Mustangs by a final score of 64-57.
The star of the night goes to guard Tai Strickland, who led the team with a career-high 27 points, including some key free throws to ultimately seal the win.
“Like I said, many guys can step up. We have great guys,” Strickland said when asked about being the team’s leading scorer in the game. “The driving lanes were open, and that’s kinda what I do best. I can get in gaps, create contact, get to the free throw line, and get a bucket.”
While this win was certainly unexpected, it came with its fair share of struggles as Temple played from behind almost the entire game. It forced the team to make some adjustments which ultimately turned the tide of the game.
“We hang our hat on defense. So, eventually, they were just scoring on us. So, late in the game, we got to put our foot down and get stops, and I feel like that’s what we did,” Jahlil White said. SMU shot just 38 percent from the field.
Even with the absences of Williams and Dunn, the team’s game plan leading up to the game didn’t change.
“No, not at all. It wasn’t different one bit. We just defend, and have fun on offense, and share the ball. That’s our game plan,” White said.
This was a statement win not only for the team, but for Coach Aaron McKie’s coaching career here at Temple, and it will go down as one of the marquee victories during his coaching tenure.
“It’s certainly up there. You take into consideration the circumstances that we’re under. It’s a good win versus a good team. They were underhanded tonight, so were we”, McKie said.
A real strength of this team has been its ability to lock in during the final stretch of games. The Owls ended the game on a 22-7 run to put it away.
“Just collective, having these guys in the summer. Talking them through, we do situations. Whether you guys, believe it or not, we shoot a lot of free throws at the end of practice with the music on with the music off. Sometimes you see the results in a good way, sometimes you don’t, but we do practice all of those things,” McKie said.
The Owls will hit the road for their next two games, as they will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats on Friday at 2pm. Cincinnati is on a two-game losing streak. They have a 6-6 record against conference opponents and are 16-9 record overall.