DAYTON, Ohio – Sunday’s loss to the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers ended the collegiate careers of five players: senior guard Khalif Wyatt, senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, graduate forwards Scootie Randall and Jake O’Brien and graduate guard T.J. DiLeo.
Those five players knew going into the tournament that every game could be their last at Temple. Coach Fran Dunphy showed a lot of faith in them, only playing two other players, sophomore guard Will Cummings and redshirt-sophomore forward Anthony Lee, in two tournament games.
On Sunday, March 24, against Indiana, however, not all of the veterans rose to the occasion.
Wyatt stepped up, scoring 31 points, including 20 of Temple’s 29 first-half points. However, the other four departing members combined for just 11 points on 4-for-25 shooting. Hollis-Jefferson was the only one to make a shot from the field.
“We didn’t make shots,” O’Brien said. “I don’t think they keyed in on Khalif like many teams do. The game comes down to making shots, and we didn’t.”
Temple shot 21-for-62, a shooting percentage of 33.9 percent. Only in the loss to Kansas on Jan. 6, when they shot 30 percent, did the Owls shoot worse this season.
The worst shooting performance of the day was Randall’s. He did not make a single field goal despite taking 12 shots, six from outside the three-point line. Through his lackluster shooting, he played 38 out of 40 minutes.
“It’s one of those things that happens,” Dunphy said. “He tried his very best. Sometimes you try too hard. But he’s someone you’re going to stay with and ride, and he’s my son. I feel badly that he didn’t make a couple of shots. He had a great year and a great career.”
“I’ve 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. As of now, you can’t really do too much about it. It already happened, so just got to move forward.”
Randall was effective in other areas, getting a game-high nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.
“He did other things,” Dunphy said. “He helped us in so many other ways. It’s just one of those things that happens, and he needs to just remember it, but move on as well. He’s been a great guy to coach for five years.”
O’Brien struggled with foul trouble, getting called for four fouls in 13 minutes. He was 0-for-4 from the field, including three misses from behind the arc.
“It was frustrating, picking up those early fouls and coming out in the second half with four and not being able to return,” O’Brien said. “Just knowing you can’t do much but watch. It was really frustrating for me. I wish I could have done more.”
“It’s disappointing for Jake,” Dunphy said. “I thought he got a couple 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. Maybe we could have gotten him an open look.”
DiLeo did not score, but played solid defense in 21 minutes.
“We were still getting pretty good looks toward the end of the shot clock,” DiLeo said. “Some of them weren’t falling today. But I think that was definitely one of our parts of the game plan, to manage the game.”
Despite the team’s struggles on offense, the Owls held Indiana to just 58 points. The Hoosiers average 80 points a game, the third-highest mark in the country.
“I thought we competed like crazy today,” Dunphy said. “I don’t know how good a defensive team we could have been all year long. We weren’t as good as we needed to be in a number of games…I couldn’t have been more proud with how this team competed today.”
Ultimately, the five graduating players will all be remembered for different reasons, and have moments to be proud of. That may take some time, though.
“Maybe a couple weeks down the road,” DiLeo said. “Months or years down the road, we’ll look back at it and be proud of what we did. But right now, it still hurts knowing that we could easily be in the Sweet Sixteen now. I’m proud of all these guys, that’s all I can say.”
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.