Upset-minded Temple braces for dominant Indiana team

Temple's Khalif Wyatt figures to be guarded by Indiana's Victor Oladipo. "I know he's going to be up for the challenge," the Owls' top player said. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Temple's Khalif Wyatt figures to be guarded by Indiana's Victor Oladipo. "I know he's going to be up for the challenge," the Owls' top player said. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Posted: March 24, 2013

DAYTON, Ohio - Temple knows Indiana is a dominant team.

The Owls have been hearing about the Hoosiers since the NCAA tournament seeds were released.

"There's a reason why they are a first seed, because they're a terrific basketball program and team," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said of the East Regional's top team. "And I think coach [Tom] Crean has done a terrific job of putting them in that position."

But don't let the kind words fool you. The ninth-seeded Owls (24-9) expect to play the role of spoiler in Sunday's 2:45 p.m. East Regional third-round matchup here at University of Dayton Arena. A victory would advance Temple to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2001.

"That's added motivation," guard Khalif Wyatt said. "We just want to keep this season going, and the fact that you get to play against one of the best teams in the country that's just added to it."

A victory over the Hoosiers (28-6) would rekindle the program's glorious NCAA tourney legacy. The Owls would follow in the footsteps of the 1956, 1958, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1999 and 2001 teams that reached the Sweet 16.

But it won't be easy.

Indiana, which was the nation's No. 1 ranked team for 10 weeks, has three future NBA players in guard Victor Oladipo, forward Christian Watford and center Cody Zeller.

Friday's 83-62 victory over 16 seed James Madison was Indiana's 16th win this season by at least 20 points. The Hoosiers have scored 80 or more points in 19 of their of their 34 games. And they have the edge over the Owls in most statistical comparisons.

"They're a good offensive team, and they play a good pace, and they got some good players," Wyatt said. "We've just got to be solid on defense and try to limit them to one shot as many times as we can."

The Atlantic Ten player of year added that the Owls will have to play attention to the Hoosiers' personal.

"They got some guys that can shoot the ball," Wyatt said. "They got some good inside players.

"Just got to know who to guard and try to limit them to one set."

Zeller, a 7-foot sophomore, leads Indiana in scoring (16.7 points per game), rebounds (8.1) and blocked shots (44 total). Watford, a 6-9 senior, averages 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds. He also shoots 49.2 percent on three-pointers.

Oladipo is arguably the best player in the country.

The 6-foot-5, 214-pound junior averages 13.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals. The Big Ten defensive player of the year is expected to draw Wyatt as a defensive assignment.

The Temple standout, who scored 31 points against North Carolina State on Friday, welcomes the challenge.

"I know if he's guarding me, I know he's going to be up for the challenge, and he's going to play hard," Wyatt said. "I've just got to let the game come to me and just go out there and play my game, let my teammates get me shots, set screens, just work without the ball and stuff like that.

"He's a good defender, but, I mean, not the first good defender."

Wyatt averages 20.2 points and Friday marked the sixth time he scored 30 or more points this season. Crean compared him to Michigan point guard Trey Burke, a future NBA lottery pick.

"You can start making comparisons to Trey Burke and how he plays and how much the ball is in his hands," Crean said, "and not only the way he shoots it, but the way he delivers it. We're used to that.

"Khalif Wyatt takes a backseat to no one in the country right now when it comes to being a complete guard."


Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock

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