Owls escape Quakers' upset bid

Posted: January 25, 2013

THERE WAS a point Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center when it pretty much became clear that if Temple was going to avoid a second straight home loss, Khalif Wyatt would probably have to take matters into his own hands.

Because that's what he can do. Ask Syracuse.

This time, that moment came with 16 minutes to go, after a Penn team whose only win since the end of November had come last week by one at NJIT, had taken a nine-point lead.

That's what can happen when it's a city game.

Six minutes later things were tied, mostly because the senior guard scored 16 of the Owls' next 18. And the one basket he didn't get, he assisted on. He made three three-pointers, one of which hit the rim, bounced high off the backboard and finally fell through. OK, he missed two of six free throws in that stretch, one of which would have given him an old-fashioned three-point play.

That changed things, even if Penn was still up by three at the 7-minute mark. The Owls then scored 11 straight, with Wyatt's trey from the left corner putting them in front for keeps with just under 5 1/2 minutes showing. He'd add two freebies at 5:05, and his teammates more or less took it from there.

So Temple survived, 76-69.

"For the fourth year in a row, Penn played better than us," said coach Fran Dunphy, who spent 17 seasons there before moving to North Broad in 2006. "We managed to get more points."

Wyatt had 26 of them, on 8-for-12 shooting (4-for-6 from the arc), to go with five assists and six rebounds. All of which trumped his six turnovers.

"He decided he was going to play great, and he did," Dunphy said. "He can get down on himself, but not as much as he used to. He made some passes that maybe weren't finished by his teammates. I think that frustrates him."

With Scootie Randall struggling, a lot of it falls on Wyatt, who scored 31 in Saturday's loss to St. Bonaventure. And he's more than OK with that, even if he doesn't want it all to be about him.

"I just try to take advantage of what the defense gives me," Wyatt said. "They were putting a lot of focus on me early, so I was trying to hit open guys. I got a couple more scoring opportunities [in the second half], but nothing really changed that much."

Except for the fact that he had that look about him, that he knew what had to be done and who had to do it.

"I made some shots, made some plays," he said. "Got a little more aggressive at the offensive end. I tried to take it upon myself to get a couple buckets. I knew if I started scoring, other guys would start to get looks."

He was right. T.J. Dileo and Jake O'Brien, who started in place of the injured Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (knee), both got two baskets down the stretch. DiLeo's were threes. It makes a difference.

Anthony Lee had 16 points and nine boards. O'Brien scored 14. No word on whether Hollis-Jefferson will be ready for Saturday's trip to No. 9 Butler, which of course lost at La Salle.

"We're happy we won," Wyatt said. "It's better than losing. But we're not happy with the way we're playing. When we play good defense, we can play with any team. We're a little inconsistent right now. We had some good stretches."

At some point, the real Temple (13-5) is going to have to stand up.

Penn (3-15) has now lost six straight in this series. Its only win at Temple in 13 tries was 12 years ago.

Jerome Allen, who played for Dunphy 2 decades ago, has never been in this for good shows.

"We play to win, I coach to win," he reiterated. "When we lose, it's a direct function of what we did not do. We can't allow the periphery to set the standard for us.

"We didn't finish the right way. It all came down to an inability to close the basketball game. It was a lack of focus at both ends. We can't afford to take a possession off.

"I keep saying the same thing over and over: You have to win the game. Nobody's going to give you the game, especially on the road."

The Quakers, who are now off until they host Columbia on Feb. 1, got 21 points and six boards from Miles Cartwright, 17 from Darien Nelson-Henry and 15 off the bench from Patrick Lucas-Perry, which matched his career high. A team that starts all underclassmen, including two freshmen and a sophomore, was playing its ninth consecutive game without leading scorer Fran Dougherty, who is recovering from mononucleosis.

"We got ourselves together and found a way," said Dunphy. "I think we all can play better."

Free throw

Longtime sports information director Al Shrier was honored by Temple at halftime for his 60 years at the university. A banner with his trademark briefcase was raised to the rafters, where it will hang next to those of two Hall of Fame coaches and four players. Hal Lear will make that a fivesome at next Wednesday's game against Richmond.

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