Owls upset the No. 3/5 Duke Blue Devils

For the first time in more than 15 years the Owls defeated the Atlantic Coast Conference Duke Blue Devils, who entered Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia with a 12-1 overall record and a No. 3/5 ranking.

LESLIE FRAZIER TTN Junior guard Khalif Wyatt drives in the lane against a Duke defender in the win on Wednesday.

For the first time in more than 15 years the Owls defeated the Atlantic Coast Conference Duke Blue Devils, who entered Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia with a 12-1 overall record and a No. 3/5 ranking. The Owls won 78-73 and the team was led by junior guard Khalif Wyatt’s game-high 22 points.

The Owls’ fans rushed the court after the upset win against the Blue Devils. Fans from both teams made up the third-largest crowd ever to attend a college basketball game at the Wells Fargo Center (20,420).

 “It’s an incredible basketball program and for us to come out on top tonight is very, very nice for a lot of people,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “There are a lot of Temple folks and Philadelphians and certainly our team and our program- we’re thrilled to be standing here as winners tonight.”

Statistics that can traditionally determine a game’s outcome were minor details in the Owls’ win.  

Temple made Duke turn the ball over 16 times, while recording 17 turnovers themselves. Meanwhile the Owls recorded three additional rebounds than the Blue Devils.

At the post-game press conference both coaches discussed how this game was decided by two intangibles: experience and courage.

The Owls were deemed winners of both categories.

Temple’s backcourt of guards, seniors Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, along with Wyatt, knew they had to handle the grunt of the offense. And they did, scoring a combined 37 points with a total of 13 assists.

In comparison, the Blue Devils’ backcourt featured junior guard Seth Curry, sophomore guard Tyler Thornton and freshman guard Austin Rivers, who leads the team in scoring on the season (15.4 ppg.). The Duke trio combined for 23 points and a total of five assists.

Wyatt displayed courage for the Owls with his ability to take shots when they mattered most, just like his game-winning three pointer against Delaware last Friday.

“We always want to start quick but today we emphasized it,” Wyatt said, who scored six points in the first five minutes of the game. “We came out quick and just played solid the whole game.”

The Owls battled with the Blue Devils throughout the first half to take a two-point lead, 35-33 at the half.

In the second half, the Blue Devils, known as a streaky shooting team, according to Dunphy, were able to cut a 10-point Owls’ lead at 55-45 down to four in about two minutes. With the score at 56-52 with seven and a half minutes remaining in the game, the Blue Devils looked to deflate the home crowd’s roaring cheers.

Brothers and forwards senior Miles Plumlee and junior Mason Plumlee led the Blue Devils’ offense, combining for 33 points on 15-of-24 (.625) shooting with most of their points coming in the paint. The Plumlees also combined for 16 rebounds and five blocks.

Despite being out-sized in the frontcourt, Moore said the Owls just had to stick to the game plan.

“We carried out what Coach Dunphy emphasized and we managed the game,” Moore said. “We’re used to this, missing two starters and there’s no excuses and it starts with us three: Khalif (Wyatt), myself and Juan (Fernandez).

The Owls maintained at least a four-point lead until five minutes remained in the game when Miles Plumlee’s free throw cut the lead to three. But the Owls, led by two consecutive three pointers from Wyatt, went on an 8-0 run and held off the visitors until the final buzzer.

“He’s got huge courage,” Dunphy said of Wyatt. “He just has no fear. I think that’s what you need in a game like this. He made those two three’s and gave us a little bit of space, and he can do that.”

Coach Mike Krzyewski, who previously guided his team to 14 straight victories against unranked opponents, said the Owl’s defense made a difference in the game.

“Their perimeter really controls the tempo of the game with such a veteran perimeter,” Krzyewski said. “We obviously didn’t play very well, but that doesn’t take away from how well they played. They played really well.”

Temple won its final non-conference game of the year, besides a scheduled meeting with Maryland for Jan. 21 at the Palestra, before it hosts Dayton (11-4) at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the Liacouras Center.

“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Moore said. “When Coach Dunphy walked into the locker room he said, ‘Good win, but I’m worrying about Dayton now.’”

Connor Showalter can be reached at connor.showalter@temple.edu.

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