PHILADELPHIA, PA 12/28/2013 – For the first thirty-eight minutes of the game the Temple Owls looked a bit out of synch. The Owls were not getting stops. Temple trailed by 74 – 69 with just under three minutes on the clock. The Cherry and White would need their leading scorer to explode. Khalif Wyatt did so scoring twelve consecutive points in less than two minutes to give the Owls an 83 – 78 win over the Detroit Titans in a Chevrolet Gotham Classic game at the Liacouris Center. The senior guard, held scoreless in the first half, felt he needed to keep playing.
“I had a rough first half offensively and defensively,” said Wyatt. “My teammates did a great job of encouraging me. I was thinking keep going, keep going, keep going, keep attacking, keep attacking, keep attacking. I made some plays for my teammates. Down the stretch I just had enough courage to take some big shots. My teammates trusted me, and I am glad that I could reward them.”
Wyatt scored 20 points in the game all in the second half. The Norristown resident scored his first points of the game on two free throws early in the second half. Wyatt converted two more at the 14:39 mark. The first field goal for the Owls leading scorer came with 10:43 to play, a three-pointer that gave Temple a 53 – 51 lead. The teams traded the lead as they did for most of the game down the stretch. There were 10 lead changes in all. Detroit opened a 70 – 66 lead on a layup by guard Ray McCallum, who scored a game-high 21 points. The lead grew to 5-points before Wyatt made a layup with 1:57 to play. The key basket came when graduate guard T.J. DiLeo stole a Titan inbounds pass, fed the ball to Wyatt who put up a three-pointer that went off the backboard and through the net tying the score at 74.
“I just got some space and made the shot,” Wyatt said. “If I missed it Coach would have had a lot to say about it. He was happy I made it, I was happy I made it, my teammates were happy I made it. You have to take shots to make shots. I just wanted to try and help my team.”
He would follow that with another basket from beyond the arc that gave Temple a 77 – 74 lead with 1:04 on the clock. The explosion ended with four free throws that put the Owls comfortably in front at 81 – 76 with 11.4 seconds left.
Temple Coach Fran Dunphy would like to see more consistency from his guard, but he knows at times that it is Khalif being Khalif.
“He can drive you insane, but you live with him because he can do some extraordinary things,” Dunphy said. “You say to yourself that he is going to do this. It’s Khalif.”
Graduate forward Jake O’Brien kept Temple in the game earlier by shooting a perfect 6 for 6 from the floor, making both his three-pointers to score 16 points. Other Owls contributing to the offense during the first 38 minutes were senior forward Scootie Randall scored 18 p, and senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson who scored 13 points and pulled down 12 rebounds registering his third double-double of the season. Wyatt handed out a season-high tying 7 assists.
The Titans, who have won 19 games, gave Temple problems shooting 28 – 54 from the field (51.9%), and 8 of 19 (42.1%) from distance. The Detroit offense did a good job of going to the basket, then taking the long jumper when it was given to them. Three other Titan players scored in double figures. Guard Jason Calliste scored 19 points, forward Doug Anderson put in 17 points, and forward Nick Minnerath scored 15. McCallum also dished a team-high 6 assists.
Temple closed out the game with a 14 – 4 run to earn their 20th win of the season and fourth straight, and six of their last seven games. This also represents the sixth consecutive 20 win year for Temple that ties a school record.
“We’re definitely taking steps forward,” said O’Brien. “It’s a cliché but we are taking it one game at a time. At this point in the season every game matters.”
The win also strengthens the tournament resume as the Owls are getting hot at the right time. But Dunphy is focused on the upcoming game against Rhode Island, and for the team to keep winning.
“The only thing we can do is take care of every game we play,” Dunphy said. “We need to win. We have no control over anything else other than trying to win games. Where this win puts us, I have no idea. But I do know we have to continue to win games.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian