Temple has seen its men’s basketball season paused twice due to positive COVID-19 tests. The latest pause started Dec. 31, the day after a 79-71 home loss to Southern Methodist University.
Eleven days later, the Owls are back in action against the same opponent. The Owls (1-2, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) will play at SMU (6-2, 2-2) on Monday at 3 p.m.
“There’s really been no consistency for us with practice time,”coach Aaron McKie said. “We make the most of it. It is what it is at this point. We have to be mentally prepared to go out there and give what we got.”
Temple led briefly in the second half of the teams’ first meeting at 47-46, but SMU responded with an 8-0 run and never lost the lead.
“We had a lot of missed assignments defensively, where we gave up some three-point shots to guys we talked about not giving three-point shots,” McKie said. “It was a number of different things that we didn’t do.”
SMU was unbeaten at the time. The Mustangs have lost their last two games against Houston and Cincinnati, but they’re still dangerous. Four players are scoring in double-figures, led by including junior guard Kendric Davis at 19 points per game.
In some cases, a hiatus can allow teammates to get better acclimated to one another. That wasn’t the case for Temple. Players weren’t allowed to work out together as a team. That’s a tough predicament for a young roster with freshmen like guards Jeremiah Williams and Damian Dunn carrying a big load. Dartmouth transfer Brendan Barry, another guard, was playing in a game less than a week after his arrival.
McKie’s primary focus is on Temple and what it needs to do better. Since SMU has eight games under its belt, he also has gotten to see where the Owls can attack. Temple lost the points-in-the-paint battle 40-22 in the first meeting. Attacking the rim is being emphasized more.
“I just want them to play smart, play unselfish, play with some toughness and compete,” McKie said.
Dunn has been Temple’s best option at attacking the rim, but he was in foul trouble during the first meeting. Dunn was plus-seven in his 21 minutes and had a team-high 15 points.
Khalif Battle, a transfer from Butler, is another guard who has an attacking style, but he’s yet to suit up for the Owls due to a hamstring injury.