Temple guard Khalif Battle took a quick step to the left and released from three-point territory, hitting a shot down the stretch for a 67-66 lead against Delaware on Nov. 27.
The 6-foot-5 guard scored a season-high 29 points and was named American Athletic Conference player of the week following the Owls’ 75-74 victory over the Blue Hens.
Battle was on pace for an impressive season, averaging 21.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 48.8% from three and 53.8% from the field. But that all came to an end when Temple’s leading scorer fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot against La Salle on Dec. 1.
Battle underwent successful surgery and is expected to make a full recovery. Coach Aaron McKie said the Owls will adopt a committee approach on offense without their best three-point shooter.
“I don’t want them to feel like they have to take on the scoring burden and somebody has to come in and score 20 and score 10,” McKie said. “We just do a collective and each individual has to step their level of play up.”
In its first game without Battle, Temple shared the load as eight players scored in an 81-72 win against Penn on Dec. 4. But Temple’s lack of consistent shooting showed against Vanderbilt on Dec. 7 when they shot 28.6% from three and 35.3% from the field against the Commodores despite winning 72-68 in overtime.
The Owls are averaging 5.9 three-pointers per game, while their upcoming opponents are shooting at a higher clip. St. Joseph’s, which plays Temple on Dec. 11, is putting up 8.8 three-pointers.
“What I kept trying to tell the guys leaving games, [teams] are going to make a run because now they started to play faster,” McKie said. “They’re spacing you out a little bit more and are looking to shoot those threes.”
With conference competition approaching in a week, McKie will need to find consistency in his shooters. Here are three players who will be counted on to step up in Battle’s absence.
The 6-5 guard, who stepped up last season while Battle was recovering from a hamstring injury, will be a key contributor.
Dunn is averaging 13.7 points per game and is the second-leading scorer on the team. While most of his shots are midrange, McKie has seen Dunn’s confidence grow from three-point territory.
“I just tell him to keep firing,” McKie said. “We’re gonna need you down the stretch and just to keep firing and keep the confidence.”
Against the Quakers, Dunn had a career-high 27 points, making 9 of 15 shots from the field and 8 of 10 from the free-throw line.
Despite the Commodores applying heavy pressure at the three-point line, Dunn made 3 of 5 from deep, and the guard showed his ability to make shots despite double-teams.
Being down a player opened up a hole in the starting lineup against Penn, and McKie believed the 6-6 guard, who has played minimal minutes prior to Battle’s injury, was the next man up.
“I thought he’s a threat,” McKie said. “And [he would] be able to make an open shot.”
Ademokoya had his first collegiate start against the Quakers, where he missed seven of his nine three-pointers. He remained a starter against Vanderbilt, where he rebounded and made 1 of 5 three-point attempts.
“Shooters shoot,” Ademokoya said. “Those numbers will improve.”
Guard Jahlil White referred to Ademokoya as a knockdown shooter that may have gone unnoticed since he hasn’t seen much action this season.
“I know what he could do,” White said. " I thought he should be playing a lot more minutes.”
The 6-2 guard made his return to the court against Vanderbilt after being out for two games due to undisclosed injuries.
“It gave us another ballhandler and a guy that can defend and put pressure on the opponents,” McKie said. “Gives us that backup point ground to get into our offense. He made some key free throws down the stretch and key shots down the stretch.”
Strickland came off the bench with a career-high 21 points against Vanderbilt. He is the team’s third-leading scorer and is shooting 40% from the three-point line.
“We know we have the value of the guys that are about to step up into a much bigger role,” Dunn said. “And whether it’s pressure or none, we’re very confident that guys are going to be able to step up and contribute.”