Despite trailing at halftime and for much of the second half, Temple was able to remain perfect in Big 5 play and secure a win against Penn, 76-69. Senior guard Khalif Wyatt led all players with 26 points, including 21 in the second half, as the Owls were able to avoid the upset by an undermanned Quaker team.
Temple (13-5, 2-2 Atlantic 10 Conference) got the win against a Penn team that was without its leading scorer in junior forward Fran Dougherty, who averages 15.7 points per game. While the players stressed the importance of winning a game against a Big 5 opponent regardless of the circumstances, it was not a total victory.
“We happy we won, it’s better than losing,” Wyatt said. “But we aren’t happy with the way we are playing right now… I don’t think any team fears us, they don’t have a reason to fear us.”
Temple trailed Penn (3-15, 0-1 Ivy League Conference), 33-31 at halftime and saw the deficit reach as many as nine in the second half. It was at that point, that Wyatt saw his game turn around.
“I was taking what the defense gave me [in the first half],” Wyatt said. “They were putting a lot of focus on me early, so I was trying to find my teammates and hit the open guy. I did the same things in the second half, but I got a lot more opportunities to score and hit some open looks. We were having a hard time on offense, so I put it on myself to score.”
“He really put it on himself to take over in the second half,” sophomore forward Anthony Lee said. “He was more aggressive and we got down early so it was a good job that he did that and try to rally us back.”
Lee came one rebound short of his fourth double-double, leading the game with nine boards. While he contributed to Temple winning the rebounding advantage 33 to 25, he also was matched up with Penn freshman center Darien Nelson-Henry, who registered 17 points.
“Lee had stretches where he was not very good, and stretches where he was great,” Dunphy said. “I think he is a microcosm of where we are at this point.”
Wyatt led the way for the Owls with 26 points, as well as recording a game-high six turnovers. Something that coach Fran Dunphy said would be a result of frustration.
“He had six turnovers, which is very uncharacteristic of him,” Dunphy said. “He had a couple times where he tried to force the issue.”
Graduate-senior guard T.J. DiLeo led the Owls in bench scoring with six points, all of which came on three-pointers.
“[DiLeo] hit some big shots for us today,” Wyatt said. “He can shoot the ball and we encourage him to shoot it.”
Graduate-senior Jake O’Brien started his third game for the Owls in place of senior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, who was out with a left knee injury. Hollis-Jefferson was seen riding a stationary bike on the Temple sideline for a few minutes in the second half, but never entered the game.
Temple will now turn its attention to No. 9 Butler, who lost to LaSalle 54-53 tonight. Game time is set for 6:00 pm at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.