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Temple sees improvement by the game, but Aaron McKie wants more in Saturday’s matchup vs. Tulane | Preview

Temple and Tulane could be a low-scoring game highlighted by defensive impact plays.

Aaron McKie has been Temple's toughest critic.
Aaron McKie has been Temple's toughest critic.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

Aaron McKie is nowhere near satisfied after Temple’s first conference win. More times than not, a coach will highlight the first conference win as a big moment. In Temple’s case, it was a much-needed one after three losses.

But McKie is keeping his team on its heels. There aren’t many pats on the back.

Freshman Jeremiah Williams was a team-high plus-15 in the win and finished with 12 points and four assists while playing solid defense. McKie called his performance “OK.”

“It’s a lot that we’re throwing at him,” McKie said. “Sometimes I get upset with him on offense because he’s not using his voice enough to position guys. If I didn’t think he could do it, I wouldn’t put him in that position.”

That extra push is what Temple (2-3, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) needs during this tough stretch. The Owls have a rare three-game week. Monday, they lost to Southern Methodist, and Thursday they beat UCF. Next up is a rescheduled contest on the road at Tulane on Saturday. The game will tipoff at 1 p.m. on ESPN+. The original opponent was East Carolina, but its program is currently on pause.

Tulane (6-3, 1-3) is more experienced by four games. The Owls and Green Wave split last season’s two meetings. Temple was picked to finish 10th and Tulane 11th in the AAC preseason poll.

The Green Waves’ strong start is boosted by their 5-0 record in nonconference play. Jaylen Forbes (15.3 points) and Jordan Walker (12.4 points) pace the team in scoring.

Damian Dunn’s emergence as Temple’s go-to scorer has happened quickly. His true freshman season was cut short after 18 minutes. As a redshirt freshman, he’s averaging a team-high 15.4 points. His 34.5% shooting is less than ideal, but it’s boosted by his ability to get to the free-throw line, where he averages nine free-throw attempts per game.

“Just growing up with two older brothers, you just learn to take contact for what it is,” Dunn said. “Getting to the free-throw line is something I try to get myself involved in during the course of a game.”

Saturday is a good chance for Temple’s second conference win, but it could be a slugfest. Tulane is third in the AAC in points allowed at 61.9 per game. Temple is second to last, (69.8) but the team is coming off its best defensive performance. The Owls held UCF to 33% shooting, allowed a season-low 55 points, and contained the Knights’ leading scorer to four points. Plus, Tulane has the worst scoring offense in the AAC.

And no, McKie wasn’t satisfied after that season-best defensive performance.

“We have room to be better, honestly,” McKie said. “It’s the type of effort we’re going to have to have every night.”