In a game when Khalif Wyatt scored a career high 34 points, of course the ball would be in his hands in the last possession.
Unfortunately for Temple, that possession could only last seven tenths of a second.
Wyatt’s last-second shot fell short, as did the Owls’ effort in a 70-69 loss to St. Joseph’s University at the Hagan Arena Saturday night.
“I though our kids fought through it today,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We needed to be a little bit tougher on a couple possessions, maybe we would’ve survived. But I feel better about the game this year, how we played and competed, than I did last year, how we played and didn’t compete nearly as well as we did tonight. We have a lot of games left and need to be the best team we can be moving forward.”
The Owls had called timeout to set up a potential game-winning shot with less than a second remaining after Wyatt drove to the basket and had the ball blocked out of bounds. Wyatt took the ball up court after St. Joe’s senior guard Carl Jones missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have iced the game.
Coach Fran Dunphy said he wanted the ball in Wyatt’s hands on both of the Owls’ final possessions due to the game he was having. Wyatt scored 16 of Temple’s final 21 points, including a three-pointer from well beyond the arc with 10 seconds remaining that cut the St. Joe’s lead to one and kept Temple in the game.
But on the last play, an inbound from underneath the St. Joe’s basket, Wyatt came up short on a 15-footer that both he and Dunphy said he rushed.
“I wasn’t sure how much time [0.7 seconds] was, if I had time to catch and shoot my regular shot or if I had to rush it. I rushed it.”
The loss dropped Temple’s record to 14-7 overall, 3-4 in the Atlantic 10 Conference and 2-1 in the Big 5. St. Joe’s improved to 13-7 4-3 in the A-10 and 2-1 in the Big 5.
Temple took its largest lead of the game at nine points on a three-pointer from Wyatt with five minutes, 39 seconds remaining, but Jones hit threes on consecutive possessions to keep the Hawks in the game. The treys were apart of a 14-4 St. Joe’s run that gave the Hawks the lead with a little less than 30 seconds remaining, which they would hold onto in the final seconds.
“I thought the two biggest plays were Jones’ threes,” Dunphy said. “One was off a foul shot by Khalif, they ran it down really quickly and we didn’t match up to Jones. The next time it was late in the shot clock and we didn’t switch out enough to limit that. Those two threes were huge.”
St. Joe’s outscored Temple 40-16 in the paint and outrebounded the Owls 39-33. Junior forward Ronald Roberts Jr. led the Hawks with 18 points and 12 rebounds and junior forward Halil Kanacevic added 12 points and nine rebounds.
“You can’t always drive to the basket because the shot blockers get in the lane,” freshman guard Will Cummings said. “You have to make jump shots to win the game. That’s what they made us do.”
Wyatt led all scorers with 34 points, including 21 points in the second half. He finished the game 11-for-24 shooting, including 7-for-14 from three.
“Every game is different in its personality and the way it’s played,” Dunphy said. “Tonight [Wyatt] had opportunities, and I think he took them. He can probably distribute a little more, but for me, anytime he has the ball I think we are a dangerous offense team.”
“It hurts. We wanted it,” Wyatt said. “We wanted to win the game, but we have to give a lot of credit to St. Joe’s.”
The Hawks outshot the Owls 54 percent to 32 percent in the second half, including a margin of 43 percent to 33 percent from three. Temple outshot St. Joe’s by a margin of 45 percent to 40 percent in the first half and led by three at halftime, but the Hawks’ second-half effort was too much for the Owls.
“I’m pleased with how we are progressing at this point,” Dunphy said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t finish the game more strongly, but I’m pleased with our team.”
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.