The late Dean Smith always maintained a team could play one good game without a key player.
Temple did that Saturday in its first game without leading scorer Khalif Battle. Can it keep doing it Tuesday night when it visits Vanderbilt?
The Owls (5-3) have to fill a 21.4 ppg hole without Battle, who was the American Athletic Conference’s leading scorer at the time of his injury. Battle went down Wednesday in their win over La Salle with a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot and is done for the season’s remainder.
“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 coach Aaron McKie said. “He is a fighter and will be back to full strength next season. Now is ‘next man up’ mentality for our program and I know our players will be ready.”
They certainly were Saturday night in an 81-72 win over Big Five rival Penn, the Owls’ fourth straight win. Damian Dunn scored a career-high 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting and Jake Forrester supplied his own career high with 21 points on 7-of-11 accuracy.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt (5-2) wasted Scotty Pippen Jr.’s game-high 29 points Saturday night in its 84-72 loss at SMU. Jordan Wright added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Commodores, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from blowing a 40-28 halftime lead.
A disastrous first 10 minutes of the second half sealed Vanderbilt’s fate. The Mustangs used runs of 11-0 and 18-3 to turn their 12-point deficit into a 14-point lead.
“We let them get momentum plays,” Pippen said. “We turned the ball over in the halfcourt and let them dunk the ball. That lets them get energy and gets the crowd into it. We have to be stronger with the ball because teams are going to watch footage and think pressure is the way to stop us.”
Pippen paces the Commodores with 16.9 ppg and 3.1 assists per game.
–Field Level Media