Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Just as things were looking up for Temple, the Owls suffered a major setback.
Sophomore guard Khalif Battle, the team’s leading scorer and offensive juggernaut through the first month of the season, is out for the rest of the year, the school announced Thursday afternoon.
Khalif Battle grimaces after injuring his foot in Wednesday's win over La Salle. (Photo: Nicole Ambruch/CoBL)
With just over 12 minutes to go in Temple’s 73-57 win over La Salle on Wednesday night, Battle came up limping; after briefly attempting to re-enter the game, he headed to the locker room. The diagnosis: a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Surgery next week will keep him out the remainder of the season.
"I feel really bad for KB as he worked so hard in the offseason and was playing like one of the top guards in the country," Temple men's basketball coach Aaron McKie said in a statement. "He is a fighter and will be back to full strength next season. Now it is next man up mentality for our program and I know our players will be ready."
It’s an especially difficult blow for McKie, in his third year as head coach at his alma mater, and with a team that was just starting to build up some momentum.
Temple (4-3) is on a three-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s Big 5 game against Penn at home. The Quakers are also dealing with injury problems, as forwards Max Lorca-Lloyd and Nick Spinoso are both sidelined for at least a few weeks with foot/ankle injuries.
Without Battle, the Owls are going to have a tough road ahead, with games against Vanderbilt (Dec. 7), Central Florida (Dec. 15), Villanova (Dec. 29) and Houston (Jan. 2) all in the next month. There are a few more winnable contests in there to work in some new rotations, but it’s going to be a big adjustment period for a program that had quickly gotten accustomed to Battle’s output.
Replacing Battle’s production won’t be easy.
The 6-foot-5 off-guard from Trenton Catholic (N.J.), who spent one season at Butler before transferring to Temple last year, was averaging 21.4 ppg in a team-high 31.9 mpg while shooting .538/.488./806, an incredibly efficient first seven games. He’d surpassed the 20-point mark five times in seven games, a four-point game against Clemson his only poor outing of the season.
Battle was named CoBL’s City 6 Co-Player of the Month for November, and was tops in the American Athletic Conference in scoring. A sophomore by eligibility due to last year's COVID waiver, he should be eligible for an injury redshirt this season and retain three years of eligibility beginning next fall.
Behind him, redshirt freshman Damian Dunn (11.1 ppg), guard Tai Strickland — who missed the La Salle game due to injury — and second-year freshman Jeremiah Williams will all certainly have the ball in their hands more often. Battle’s injury is also likely to lead to more minutes for redshirt freshman guard Jahlil White and possibly for freshman guard Hysier Miller, a Neumann-Goretti product who’s played in three of seven games thus far.
Temple expects Battle to make a full recovery by next season, but that won’t be of much solace as they adjust to life without him for now.