As a young team trying to compete on the road against an experienced Killeen squad, Temple probably could have survived a rash of careless turnovers if it had shot the basketball better.
Or perhaps the Wildcats could have overcome less-than-stellar shooting if they had protected the ball better against Killeen’s persistent defense.
But Temple gave the ball away too often and missed too many of its good-quality shots, and the unbeaten-at-home Kangaroos made the Wildcats pay for their shortcomings.
Brian Long scored 19 points and Demarius Cress had 13 for Killeen, which blitzed Temple by closing the first half on a 29-9 run en route to a 69-57 win in District 8-5A action Friday night at the Roos’ gym.
Three nights after they edged Copperas Cove for first-year coach Marty Garcia’s first district victory, the Wildcats (7-12) dropped to 1-4 in 8-5A.
“We played like a young ballclub tonight. When you play with youth, that’s to be expected,” Garcia said. “But we can’t use that as an excuse. No one cares that we’re young. We’ve got to make plays happen.”
Junior Marquese Whitfield scored all 13 of his points after halftime to pace Temple, which got 11 points apiece from sophomore Logan Hicks and junior Jordan Lee. Sophomore Davion Curtis added nine for the Wildcats, who scored the last seven points to make the final appear more respectable.
The game was tied 9-9 after 6 minutes, and Temple actually outscored Killeen 39-31 in the second half. It was the 10-minute stretch to end the first half that decided the game.
The Wildcats made only three baskets and were plagued by turnovers during that span, and the Kangaroos (16-7, 3-2) jumped all over the inefficient visitors to take full control.
“We’ve got to shoot the ball better,” Garcia said. “It’s the coaches’ responsibility to put the players in position and get them organized. Ultimately, players have to make shots, period.
“When you miss 12 layups for the game, it’s kind of hard to beat somebody. When you shoot 40 percent from the free throw line, you’re not going to beat anybody.”
Killeen coach Reggie Huggins said a defensive adjustment gave Temple problems and fueled the Roos’ decisive run.
“We wanted to play man (defense) early, but we’ve been working on our 1-3-1 zone and we jumped into that,” said Huggins, whose Roos bounced back from Tuesday’s 56-54 loss at Ellison. “(Garcia) has a lot of young guys and they were making young-guy mistakes. They made those mistakes and we got that run.”
Three-pointers by Wendale Washington and Hicks helped Temple forge a 9-9 deadlock with 6 minutes elapsed.
But Washington missed two free throws and disruptive defense allowed Killeen to erupt for 10 points in 1:17 to lead 19-9 after one quarter.
The Roos outscored Temple 19-9 again in the second, with the all-around excellence of four-year starter Long and Cress leading the way. Long dunked after his midcourt steal and Dante Ellis-Thomas made a high-trajectory 14-footer with 2 seconds remaining, staking Killeen to a 38-18 halftime advantage.
Whitfield’s 3-pointer cut Temple’s deficit to 14 midway through the third, but six Cress points helped the Roos — who made 26 free throws to the Wildcats’ four — push their lead back to 20.
Temple plays at Shoemaker on Tuesday, while Killeen hosts Copperas Cove.