Late-game heroics lift Owls over Titans

TIMOTHY VALSHTEIN | TTN
TIMOTHY VALSHTEIN | TTN
TIMOTHY VALSHTEIN | TTN

In a game originally scheduled for Dec. 28, senior guard Khalif Wyatt turned in a first-half performance that should have been left in 2012. In the second half against the Detroit Titans, Wyatt did enough to make fans forget about the first.

Temple (20-8, 8-5 Atlantic 10 Conference) knocked off Detroit (19-11, 11-7 Horizon League) 83-78 to prevent the Titans from spoiling the Owls’ push to the postseason. Wyatt, after putting up zero points in the first half, scored 20 in the second, including 12 points in the final two minutes.

Down 74-69 with two minutes remaining, Wyatt hit a layup to put the Owls at a three-point deficit with 1:56 left in the game. This was the first of the next 12 points Wyatt would score, which would include back-to-back three pointers. One from the top of the key was banked in, followed by a left wing shot which Wyatt took off-balanced, off of one foot.

“[Wyatt] drives you insane, but you live with him because he can do some extraordinary things,” coach Fran Dunphy said.

“I was just trying to get some space so I got some space and made the shot,” Wyatt said. “My coach was happy I made it, I was happy I made it and my teammates were happy I made it. You have to take shots to make shots.”

Wyatt shot 0-for-6 from the field in the first half, a large contributor to Temple trailing 39-31 at the break. Finishing the game with 20 points and seven assists on 4-of-14 shooting, Wyatt was able to connect on 9-of-10 free throws.

In addition to Wyatt’s night, senior forward Jake O’Brien added 16 points off the bench for the Owls. O’Brien  went a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor, including two three-pointers.

“He has probably been our most consistent shooter all year,” Wyatt said. “Every time he is out there he just keeps taking shots and making shots.”

“I got some good shots,” O’Brien said. “I thought Khalif did a great job running the offense in different plays and my teammates found me and I was ready to shoot.”

Temple had a difficult time defending Detroit guard Ray McCallum. A former McDonalds’ All-American and the son of Detroit’s head coach, McCallum poured in 21 points and six assists on 8-of-17 shooting.

“There were a number of pro guys here to see him, and for obvious reasons, he is a terrific basketball player,” Dunphy said. “He made a couple of great drives to the rim and he is a tough, tough player.”

Lost in Wyatt’s performance at the end of the game and O’Brien’s shooting night was the play of senior forward Scootie Randall. Randall was one of four Owls to score double figures with 18 points in addition to adding five rebounds.

“He needs to stay positive and keep playing confidently,” Wyatt said. “He is taking more shots now and is in the flow of the game. He is rebounding more and he always plays good defense. I’m just happy to see him playing well and having fun out there.”

Temple finished the game shooting 10-of-28 from beyond the arc after posting a 3-of-15 mark before intermission. The 35.7 percent on the game was bested by Detroit’s mark of 42.1 percent for the contest. Temple, despite pouring in 52 points in the second half, still allowed Detroit to shoot 51.9 percent on the game. This mark bested Temple’s 27-of-59 mark (45.8 percent).

The Owls will have the opportunity to stay home for the weekend as they take on Rhode Island at the Liacouras Center on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Detroit game, originally scheduled as part of the Gotham Classic in December, breaks up a string of what would have been 12-straight A-10 Conference games.

After facing Rhode Island on Saturday, the Owls will travel to Fordham before hosting Virginia Commonwealth in the season finale.

Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at ibrahim.jacobs@temple.edu or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.

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