After losing three consecutive conference games, Temple came into Wednesday night needing a spark. With a 65-53 win over No. 16 Wichita State, the Owls got just that, breathing life into what had become a stale season.
It wasn’t pretty, but few of Temple’s wins have been. The Owls (10-6, 2-3 AAC) used a full-court press and suffocating defense to hold the Shockers (15-2, 3-1) to their lowest point total and second-worst field-goal percentage of the season. It was Wichita State’s first road loss and conference loss of the year.
Temple has now beaten a conference opponent in each of the last 13 seasons. Aaron McKie became the first Temple head coach since Harry Litwack in 1952-53 to beat a ranked team in his first season.
Temple trailed by six points at halftime, 32-26, but came out firing to start the second half, a consistent trend for McKie’s team. An 11-0 Temple run, accompanied by a 6:18 scoring drought for the Shockers, allowed Temple to storm back and take the lead for good with less than 15 minutes to play.
Down the stretch, redshirt-junior Monty Scott had possibly his best game of the season off the bench. He got to the line on multiple occasions, hit a tide-turning three-pointer with 6:22 to play, and finished with 11 points. Senior wing Quinton Rose grabbed three steals and hit important shots in the second half, finishing with a team-high 19 points.
Jaime Echenique paced Wichita State with 20 points in the loss.
Wichita State faced a full-court press for much of its last game on Sunday against UConn and struggled with it, turning the ball over at a season-high rate and taking two overtimes to edge out the Huskies. McKie told reporters Tuesday after practice that his defense was prepared to replicate that effort and make the Shockers uncomfortable. The Owls did that perfectly.
Wichita State shot just 30.2% from the field and committed 15 turnovers, helping Temple to 18 fast-break points. The Owls came into the game ranked 25th nationally and No. 1 in the conference in opponents’ three-point percentage. The Shockers only managed three three-pointers on 21 tries in the game, a season-worst.
The game flipped early in the second half, when Temple held the Shockers scoreless for 6:18 second and stormed to an 11-0 run. On one possession, Rose made two free throws after a flagrant foul, Scott hit a jumper and was fouled, and Nate Pierre-Louis finished a floater for a six-point possession. After trailing by as many as nine in the first half, the Owls went ahead by as many as 12 in the second.
“I didn’t think they played very well in the first half either. I thought both teams were really sleepwalking, but obviously they turned it up in the second half, and we stayed in our slumber.” –– Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall
“We wanted to wear those guys down. The focus and the mindset was if we’re tired, they’ve got to be tired. And we just wanted to have those guys feel us all game long.” –– Aaron McKie
“We just made an effort to lock in defensively, and everyone was on the same page. It worked out for us.” –– Quinton Rose
Temple needed this win badly, both for confidence and to salvage its chances at a tournament bid. Beating a ranked team at the top of the conference, and doing so despite having 20 turnovers, firmly puts Temple on the right path for a difficult stretch against SMU and Cincinnati. As Temple students poured onto the court, the Temple players could feel a grip on their season again.
The three-game skid was caused primarily by an inability to hit shots offensively. Temple made an improvement, shooting 45.7% from the field, but its defense was the main reason for the ugly victory. The Owls’ defense executed a full-court press for nearly the entire game and forced a talented Wichita State team into an uncharacteristically bad offensive game.