DAYTON, Ohio- Temple was able to race to a three-point halftime lead against No. 1 Indiana behind senior guard Khalif Wyatt’s 20 first-half points. Despite having the No. 1 seed on the ropes for much of the game, Temple was unable to pull off the tournament upset.
The Owls (24-10) fell to the Hoosiers (29-6) 58-52. The loss ends the career for Temple seniors Wyatt, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and graduate players T.J. DiLeo, Scootie Randall and Jake O’Brien.
“This is obviously a very tough loss for us,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I am very proud of our guys and how we competed. I thought we managed the game about as well as we could against a really good program and team. It would have been a great victory for us if we had found a way.”
Temple held a four-point lead with 3:09 remaining. Despite the 52-48 lead, Temple was unable to score the remainder of the game. Indiana’s 10-straight points gave them the 58-52 victory.
The Owls called a timeout with 54 seconds remaining and trailing by one. The inbounds pass, intended for Wyatt was knocked out of bounds by junior guard Victor Oladipo. Temple then inbounded the pass to Hollis-Jefferson who came up the floor without passing before missing a jumper from the top of the key. Oladipo hit a three with 15 seconds remaining on the Hoosiers’ next possession, icing the game.
“I would have liked Rahlir to drive it and go make a play when he finally got it,” Dunphy said. “We were trying to get it to Khalif.”
Wyatt scored a game-high 31 for the Owls, including 20 in the first half. The mark matches his output in the last round against North Carolina State and ties his own record for most points thus far in the 2013 NCAA tournament. Wyatt shot 12-of-24 from the line, but just 4-of-10 in the second half. The senior went 3-of-12 from beyond the arc and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
“I was just being aggressive,” Wyatt said. “[Indiana] was playing good defense, they were denying me the ball when they could. I think the last maybe six minutes of the game, they made it really, really hard for me to catch the ball. They’re a pretty good defensive team. So they pretty much just took me out of the game.”
“For us to keep him off the foul line was a big of factor as anything else today,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “For him to go 4-of-4 was huge. Obviously he made some shots in the first half, but we did a much better job in the second half. The job we did on O’Brien and Randall, those were big factors.”
Entering the game as Temple’s second scoring option, Randall struggled from the field. Randall shot 0-for-12 from the field including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. While he collected a team-high nine rebounds, his three points fell short of his 11.6 season average.
“I have had days like this,” Randall said. “The only thing that was going through my head when I was missing is keep shooting and do other things to try and help my team.”
Indiana had three players score in double-figures. Oladipo, sophomore forward Cody Zeller and junior forward Will Sheehey scored 16, 15 and 10 points, respectively. Oladipo also tied for a team-high eight rebounds. Every starter with the exception of Oladipo was held below their season-scoring average.
“We felt like we played pretty good defense,” redshirt sophomore forward Anthony Lee said. “Some of the calls weren’t going our way, so it put a lot of pressure on the guards, left Rahlir and other people to try and help out on Zeller.”
Foul trouble negatively impacted the game for Temple. O’Brien and Zeller both ended the second half with two fouls. Zeller’s two fouls led him to play 10 minutes in the first period. After intermission, Zeller never picked up his second foul. O’Brien picked up his fourth with 12 minutes remaining in the second half while Lee picked up his fourth with five minutes remaining in the game.
“It was a really physical basketball game, and they played hard and initiated a lot of contact,” Wyatt said. “The refs make a decision whether they are going to call a foul or not, and the refs were calling fouls a lot of the time.”
O’Brien also struggled offensively. The forward scored 18 points two days ago against NC State, but did not score in this contest and was limited to 13 minutes. He went 0-for-4 from the field and collected four rebounds.
“It’s disappointing for Jake,” Dunphy said. “I thought he got a couple of calls that just didn’t go his way, including the fourth one… I thought he played about as good as he could play on the defensive end there. It would have been nice to have him for more minutes in the second half.”
O’Brien, sophomore guard Will Cummings and Randall combined to shoot 0-for-21 from the floor. Cummings and O’Brien were held scoreless while only four Temple players scored. Lee was the only other Owl to reach double-figures, shooting 5-of-8 off the bench for 10 points.
After the game, Indiana coach Tom Crean entered Temple’s huddle on the far side of the court.
“I have great respect for great competitors,” Crean said. “Those kids really don’t know me, I really don’t know them, but I have unbelievable respect for them. I just told them that they were a tough as a team that we had seen all year… it was an unbelievable honor to go battle them.”
Indiana advances to Washington D.C. to face No. 4 Syracuse in a Sweet Sixteen matchup. The Hoosiers have not faced the Orange this season. Temple, who knocked off then-No.3 Syracuse on Dec. 22, 2012, has seen its season, and the career of Wyatt, come to a close.
“We didn’t come out with the win,” Lee said. “As far as myself and the team, we didn’t get it done. So I’m really disappointed.”
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.