Dajuan Wagner looked comfortable on the floor of Madison Square Garden.
The NBA-bound guard dropped a career high 32 points as Memphis took Temple down to the wire and won 78-77.
“He is a good player, a great player, he hit tough shots,” senior forward Kevin Lyde said. “He kept his team in the game, and that is what great players do, they keep their team in the game. Then he came through and won it for them.”
Dajuan Wagner, only a freshman, displayed his maturity and skill by his assortment of shots. Whether it was dropping Js, pull up jumpers or fly-by lay ins, Juanny as he is affectionately known, had the answer.
John Chaney and the Temple Owls did not.
Three last-second efforts by David Hawkins and Kevin Lyde fell short.
With the clock winding down, Nile Murray penetrated to the corner and found Hawkins. Hawkins dribbled in and took a shot from the side of the basket that nicked the rim. Hawkins, getting his own rebound, followed up with another miss. Lyde’s final attempt missed as well.
“The ball was in Nile Murray’s hand at the end, and he went to the corner, where he should never have gone,” Chaney said. “He should have stopped in the belly of the court and dribbled the ball from there. Then he could try to pick up a foul, or whatever. But he is a freshman, so you forgive him, he’s guilty but you forgive him.”
It was just the same old ending to a disappointing season for the Owls.
They made good shots; they just couldn’t make the big shots when they needed them. That killed Temple in the end.
<font face=”verdana, arial, helvetica” size=”1″ color=”#ffffff”National Invitational Tournament Consolation Game
If you go…
• What: Syracuse Orangemen (23-12) vs. Temple Owls (18-15)
• When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
• Where: Madison Square Garden
• Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (623-220); TU: John Chaney (674-194)
• Key players: SU: Preston Shumpert (G Sr., 20.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), DeShaun Williams (G Jr., 16.4 ppg, 4.2 apg), Kueth Duany (F Jr., 12.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), James Thues (G So., 5.9 ppg, 5.1 apg);
TU: David Hawkins (G So., 15.0 ppg, 4.2 apg), Alex Wesby (G/F Sr., 11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Kevin Lyde (F Sr., 8.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Brian Polk (G So., 8.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
• Outlook: There aren’t many teams who have figured out Chaney’s 1-3-1 zone defense, including Memphis which struggled late in the game to move the ball around the perimeter and instead had to rely on the heroics of Dajuan Wagner. The Orangemen will face the same task in configuring the Owls match-up defense but will have a more experienced Shumpert as their primary weapon. If the Owls can silence the Syracuse backcourt, like South Carolina did to advance to the NIT Championship game, then Temple could bring home the third place trophy.
Alex Wesby netted a career high of 25 points in the loss.
The Owls couldn’t work their magic seen against Villanova last Friday night. Playing Temple Basketball without Lynn Greer is almost near impossible.
Brian Polk was a nice replacement for Greer in the way of scoring for Temple, he dropped 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. But he passed the ball a few times where he should have taken a shot. Chaney knows that Polk is still growing mentally and physically as a player.
“I got pissed off at him on two shots, the kid is a great shooter,” Chaney said. “Somewhere along the line something is lost. I’m pissed off because we never ever have an open shot and then dribble in and make a two-foot pass. That is the dumbest thing in basketball that happens for anybody.”
Now the Owls will go for third place in the post season NIT. They will match up against the Orangemen of Syracuse, a team faced with the same kind of disappointing season the Owls have experienced.
Syracuse was trying to become the first ever team to win the preseason and postseason NIT. Now they will attempt to take care of Temple.
The last time Temple and Syracuse played was in the 1989-90 season. Temple has 12 wins and 16 losses all-time versus the Orangemen.
Syracuse is led by senior forward Preston Shumpert, and junior guards Keith Duany and DeShaun Williams.
Thursday evening, Temple will play the Orangemen before South Carolina faces Memphis for the NIT Championship.
Scott Chafetz can be reached at email@example.com