Jim Ferry’s Duquesne Dukes entered Thursday’s game at Temple having lost 11 straight games, so it looked to be a safe bet that the Owls would take care of business at the Liacouras Center.
That wasn’t the case, as two Derrick Colter free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining gave Duquesne the 84-83 victory while handing Temple a loss the Owls could not afford to have on its resume. With the defeat Temple drops to 16-8 overall (5-5 Atlantic 10), and now the possibility of the Owls not making the NCAA tournament is a real one.
It goes without saying that as Khalif Wyatt goes so go the Owls, and the senior accounted for 35 points, six rebounds, six assists, six steals and five turnovers on the night. While there’s no doubt that Wyatt is one of the Atlantic 10’s best players, could the fact that Temple still relies so much on their star be the reason for their struggles in conference play?
Remove Wyatt’s 9-of-20 night from the equation and the other Owls combined to shoot 15-of-43 from the field, with Scootie Randall (15 points) and Dalton Pepper (13) accounting for ten of those 15 field goals. And Anthony Lee, the team’s second-leading scorer, shot 0-of-1 from the field and scored all five of his points from the foul line.
Consistency has been an issue for the Owls, whose December victory over then-No. 3 Syracuse seems to have come ages ago. Add to that a defensive effort that didn’t show up until late in the game (Duquesne shot 49% from the field and hit ten three-pointers) and the end result is a loss that does serious damage to the Temple resume.
The good news for Temple is that they’ll have opportunities to not only improve their resume but also claw their way back into the conversation for a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament, beginning with a game at UMass on Saturday night.
“We have presented ourselves with an extraordinarily difficult challenge as we move forward in the last seven games,” noted Dunphy. “But that’s who we are and we need to respond right now.”
But in order to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead, Temple’s ancillary parts need to step up and take some of the weight off of Wyatt’s shoulders. While he’s capable of carrying Temple offensively, it’s going to take more than that to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament.