Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert)
Temple’s Khalif Battle insists he doesn’t get tired. Owls men’s coach Aaron McKie took him up on that on Saturday afternoon.
Battle can often be found lobbying the Owls’ bench to not sub him out during games, never wanting to be removed from play. But in the first game of a men’s/women’s doubleheader at the Liacouras Center, Temple’s standout guard was on the floor for every minute.
Battle scored a game-high 27 points in a 40-minute performance as Temple defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 83-73, bringing the Owls (5-4) above .500 for the first time this season.
“You can blame coach McKie for that one,” Battle said with a smile. “If my homework is ever late, he makes me run. That’s why I don’t get tired.”
Temple guard Khalif Battle played all 40 minutes in a win over VCU on Saturday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
The redshirt-sophomore guard made four 3-pointers and went 9-for-9 on free throws while also recording four steals as he took on the toughest defensive assignment in VCU point guard Adrian Baldwin Jr.
“It’s how he’s wired,” McKie said. “Everybody’s body is different. … I thought he got a little tired down the stretch, but he’s competitive. … He wants those matchups, and that’s what I like. That’s what competitors do.”
Still, it took more than just Battle for the Owls. Four players scored in double figures, playing freely against the Rams’ press to pull away from a close game in the final eight minutes. Damian Dunn had 17 points while Zach Hicks had 12 and Jahlil White added 10 off the bench.
“The way these guys play, VCU,” McKie said, “they try to force you to play at a frantic pace. And we said if we share the ball and we drive … if we kick it out we’ll get good shots. I thought we did a good job of that today.”
Temple ran out to an early lead against VCU (5-3), overcoming some mistakes in the opening minutes with an 11-1 run. Battle capped that stretch as he nailed a corner 3-pointer, stole the ball on the other end and cruised in for a steal, putting the Owls on top 16-5 forcing the Rams to call timeout with 12:58 left in the first.
Battle scored 12 points in the first; meanwhile, Baldwin matched that first-half total on only five field goal attempts, sparking a Rams run to bring the game back into reach.
Baldwin, who had 16 points, buried a tough and-one 3-pointer at the top of the key to bring VCU within five points with just over a minute left in the half before Temple soon took a 37-33 advantage into the break.
VCU tied the game to start the second half a, but Temple countered with a quick 8-0 run as Hicks and Hysier Miller hit back-to-back triples and Battle scored at the rim to give the Owls a little bit of cushion.
The Rams didn’t go away, though, continuing to fight back and bringing the game back within one point on a Jamir Watkins 3-ball with 12 minutes to play.
But VCU struggled to get anything going offensively for the next three-and-a-half minutes as the Owls got seven straight stops. Temple took advantage of that cold stretch, taking a 61-54 lead on a Battle corner 3.
“I said in the huddle, I wanted to get three (stops in a row),” Battle said. “That was even better than the three.”
Temple never looked back from there, keeping control in the game’s closing moments to complete the team’s third consecutive win.
East, Owls speed up in fourth to take down UMBC
Temple guard Tiarra East scored the final nine points of the fourth quarter in a win over UMBC on Saturday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Tied heading into the fourth quarter in the second game of the doubleheader, Tiarra East brought the late-game punch for Temple’s women.
The sophomore guard scored nine points in the final period as the Owls ran past UMBC, 68-53, by attacking in transition. Playing with four fouls, East led the way by attacking the basket, going 4-for-4 from the foul line, and burying a 3-pointer.
She finished with 11 points to back up a 15-point performance from Tarriyonna Gary and Aleah Nelson’s 14 points.
“We’ve got to have energy,” Temple coach Diane Richardson said. “And that’s what we did in the fourth quarter. They got energized.”
Virtually deadlocked with the Retrievers for the entirety of the first 30 minutes, the Owls didn’t play with the pace that allows them to be successful. But heading into the fourth with a 46-46 score, Temple flipped a switch.
“We always play well when we are pushing in transition,” Richardson said. “We did it in the first quarter and then we kind of sat back a little bit and slowed the game down. And that’s not really the way we play.”
Forcing six turnovers in the quarter, the Owls pushed the ball for the entire 10 minutes as they outscored UMBC 22-7 to close it.
“In the fourth quarter, they stepped up a little bit and played Temple basketball,” Richardson said. “You can see the disparity in the score.”
Participating in her first home doubleheader at Temple, the first-year coach was happy to complete the sweep.
“The men’s game went well, and we were excited about that,” she said. “Our ladies were excited about that. And then we knew we had to win in our game, because the men won.”
Jourdain comes up big in small-ball minutes
Temple forward Nick Jourdain was a difference maker Saturday against VCU. (Photo: Jack Verdeur/CoBL)
For the second straight game, Nick Jourdain gave the Owls men’s team solid minutes at small-ball center to spell starting big Jamille Reynolds.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore helped the offense flow against VCU, scoring five points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing two assists. His ability to pass out of the post and handle the ball away from the basket was key in spacing the floor for Temple.
“We wanted to insert Nick in there as another ball-handler,” McKie said. “We could put him in the middle and stretch our shooters back. … It sort of took (VCU) out of being aggressive against us. … It settled us, but it also made those guys slow down a little bit with that pressure.”
Jourdain was effective early as the first man off Temple’s bench, throwing down a dunk in traffic to put the Owls up 23-19. He dealt with some foul trouble later in the first half, but played a lot down the stretch as Temple had its strong stretch to end the game, logging a total of 20 minutes.
The backup big brings a unique look for the Owls, and the team can play a dynamic style when Jourdain is on the floor and at his best.
“Nick helps us a lot, because he’s like a point-forward,” Battle said. “He can put the ball on the floor. Defensively, he’s a great shot-blocker and he’s versatile.”
Piper making progress for Owls
Temple forward Ines Piper collected nine points and nine rebounds against UMBC on Saturday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Forward Ines Piper didn't have Division I experience prior to this season for Temple’s women, but the 6-foot sophomore is making progress.
Originally from France, Piper moved to the United States in 2020 to play for junior college Northwest Florida State. She transferred to Temple this year, and is starting to figure out how she can contribute.
“I think I’m progressing in knowing my role,” Piper said.
That role, first and foremost, is to rebound, and she’s continuing to improve at it with time. Piper is learning how to better position herself and fight for boards at this level, leading to results. She grabbed a season-high nine rebounds against UMBC.
There are still growing pains for Piper. She also scored a season-high nine points on Saturday, but did so on just 4-of-10 shooting from the field and 1-of-3 from the foul line. There’s additional room to get better, but her commitment to a role and her production thus far have been a plus for Temple.
“She’s adapted,” Richardson said. “That’s what our team needed, and she’s adapted.”
Coming off three wins in a row against Drexel, La Salle and VCU, Temple’s men have two Big 5 matchups this upcoming week. The Owls will host St. Joe’s on Tuesday before heading to the Palestra on Saturday to face Penn.
The Temple women’s team has two Big 5 contests coming up as well, hosting La Salle on Monday and playing Penn on Sunday at the Palestra.