Wyatt gets hot late, lifts Temple over Detroit

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Khalif Wyatt goes up for a shot in Temple's 83-78 win over Detroit.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Khalif Wyatt goes up for a shot in Temple's 83-78 win over Detroit.
Posted: March 01, 2013

KHALIF WYATT is a scorer. That's his mentality. It's what he does best. Even when he struggles for, say, the opening 38 minutes.

Following a first-half doughnut, at which point Temple trailed by eight, the Atlantic 10's top scorer hit the final 2 minutes Thursday night at the Liacouras Center with one field goal on 11 shots. Not coincidentally, the Owls were still down five to Detroit.

Then, everything changed. Wyatt took over, as he's done before. Once again, the transformation was decisive.

The senior guard provided the game's next 10 points and Temple's next dozen, and the result was an 83-78 win that can only help the Owls' NCAA Tournament prospects.

"I just kept going, kept attacking, making plays," Wyatt said. "I had enough courage to take some big shots, and my teammates trusted me. I'm glad I could reward them."

First, he drove for a lefthanded lay-in. Following a T.J. DiLeo steal at midcourt off an inbounds play, Wyatt banked in a three from the key to tie things. Honest. With a little more than a minute to go, following Detroit's third consecutive possession that ended with a long miss, he nailed another trey from the left wing to put the Owls in front for keeps. After another Detroit miss from beyond the arc, Wyatt made both ends of a one-and-one with 27.6 seconds showing. After Detroit got back to within two on a put-back by Ray McCallum (who also was fouled but missed the free throw), Wyatt converted another bonus situation to more or less end it. Just in case, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson sank two additional freebies at 1.4.

"You've got to take them to make them," is how Wyatt described his off-glass dagger. "If I missed it, coach [Fran Dunphy] probably would have had a lot to say about it. I'm happy I made it.

"All our games come down to a couple of possessions. We definitely should be used to it by now. It's good to go through that. We don't blow people out. It's not what we do."

What they have done is put together a four-game winning streak that's given them their sixth consecutive 20-win season, which ties a program record. The Owls (20-8) also are trying to be part of the Madness for the sixth straight March, which would equal the second-longest streak on North Broad.

This, from a group that 2 weeks earlier had lost at home to lowly Duquesne and hadn't won more than two in a row since starting the season 6-0.

"We're definitely taking steps forward," said reserve Jake O'Brien, a graduate student who transferred in after spending his first four seasons at Boston University. "At this point, every game matters. You just have to grind them out. It really is one at a time."

Added Wyatt: "It could either go one way or the other. We hit a couple of bumps, but we did a good job of coming together."

The Owls have a short turnaround before hosting Rhode Island (8-18, 3-10 A-10) on Saturday afternoon.

This game originally was scheduled for Dec. 28 as part of the Gotham Classic, but had to be postponed 2 months because of weather issues. So all you can do is what you have to. The Rams will have been off a week.

"It's nice to see where we are at this point," said Dunphy, who had all five of his seniors on the floor down the stretch. "I'm not sure anyone would have predicted this a few weeks ago. We need to win, take care of every game. Where this puts us, I have no idea."

If the Selection Committee were putting out bids right now, the Owls would figure to be in. But it's hardly over yet.

"We've put ourselves in good position," said O'Brien, who made all six of his shots and finished with 16 points in 21 minutes. "We need to keep putting ourself in good position. The rest will take care of itself."

Wyatt's total of 20 is what he averages. Scootie Randall, who's been coming on after a confounding first 3 months, scored 18. Hollis-Jefferson, despite missing two wide-open layups, had 13 to go with 12 rebounds and three steals.

The Titans (19-11) got 21 from McCallum, just above his average. But the junior guard, son of the head coach, had to work hard for every bit of that. He also had seven boards and six assists (against one turnover) for the NBA scouts in the house. Their other three double-digit guys all reached or exceeded their averages: Jason Calliste had 19, Doug Anderson 17 and Nick Minnerath 15. They got six from everyone else, two of it off the bench.

And they didn't have Wyatt, particularly when it counted most.

"He absolutely drives you insane sometimes," Dunphy duly noted. "I can show you the teeth marks to prove it. But you live with him, because he can do some extraordinary things. He can lose his mind a little bit. But you say to yourself, 'He's going to do it. And he's probably going to make it.' "

Bang away.

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