Temple’s postseason chances have taken a huge hit.
The Owls (16-8, 5-5 Atlantic 10 Conference) fell to the Duquesne Dukes (8-16, 1-9 A-10) 84-83. A win would have moved Temple out of 8th place in the conference. Instead, the Dukes won their first A-10 game, as Temple fell back to .500 in-conference.
Down two with seven seconds remaining, senior guard Khalif Wyatt drove to the basket and hit a contested layup in which he was fouled. The free throw attempt was good putting the Owls up one. Duquesne responded to break Temple’s press and its lead when Dukes’ freshman guard Derrick Colter was fouled in the act, sending him to the line where he connected on both attempts. With 2.9 seconds remaining Temple completed a long inbounds pass to junior guard Dalton Pepper. Pepper, who had an open three-point attempt from the left wing, was unable to connect on the shot, which went halfway down before spinning out of the rim at the buzzer.
“It would have been a great win in so many ways,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Give them credit, but we didn’t play well enough to feel great about ourselves at this point.”
Temple, who trailed 43-37 at halftime, started the second half on a 17-3 run to take an eight point lead.
“We came out at halftime with a lot of energy, but give them credit, they got stops,” Wyatt said.
Duquesne shot 63 percent from the floor in the first half, including 50 percent from beyond the arc. While the Dukes shot 49 percent on the game, they still bested the Owls’ 38 percent mark.
Senior guard Khalif Wyatt led the way for the Owls with a game-high 35 points. The figure represented a career-high for Wyatt that went along with his career-high six steals. It was the fourth time that Wyatt has scored 30 or more this season, Temple’s record in those games is 1-3.
“Yeah it is definitely bitter-sweet,” Wyatt said.
Dukes’ freshman forward Quevyn Winters scored a team-high 22 points, it was a career-high for Winters as he went 8-of-9 from the field, including 5-of-5 from the three-point line. Winters didn’t miss in the first half, allowing Duquesne to go into the break with a 43-37 lead.
“We were late getting to Winters a couple of times, and he was just terrific in the first half,” Dunphy said.
Three Duquesne freshmen combined to score 48 points for the Dukes, representing more than half their total. The Owls, who have three freshmen on their roster, did not give their own youngest players any minutes.
Temple will now face an uphill battle to a postseason berth. The Owls, who had shifted from the first four teams out to the last four teams in according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi several times this week, will most likely fall out of both these brackets all together. With an RPI of 209 entering the game, Duquesne represents the lowest-rated team the Owls have fallen to this season. The other, St. Bonaventure, also came at home, a statistic typically frowned upon by the NCAA selection committee.
“You have to stay focused,” senior forward Scootie Randall said. “The game is over, we have a quick turnaround against Massachusetts. As the season goes on you need to see what you can do to help the team out and get better. You can’t get them all, they made shots, we just missed shots.”
Temple however, does have six conference games remaining, one of which comes against Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition, an Atlantic 10 Tournament win would also give the Owls an automatic qualifying bid into the field of 68.
“We have presented ourselves with a very difficult challenge as we move forward in these last couple of games,” Dunphy said.
The Owls will now travel to Massachusetts for their game this Saturday. The Minutemen ended last season’s A-10 tournament hopes for the Owls, game time is set for 6 p.m. at William D. Mullins Center.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.