Fran Dunphy

Balanced effort in win over Big 5 rival La Salle bodes well for Temple

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Fran Dunphy’s Temple Owls have been a tough team to figure out for much of the season. Capable of beating almost any team in the country, as evidenced by their win over then-No. 3 Syracuse back in December, the Owls have also lost to Duquesne.

With a share of the Big 5 title on the line Thursday night “good Temple” showed up, as the Owls took care of La Salle by the final score of 82-74 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final margin would indicate.

The best thing about the victory for Temple with an eye towards the Atlantic 10 and NCAA tournaments (should they be selected for the latter): the victory didn’t require a Herculean effort from Khalif Wyatt.

Wyatt, one of the best guards in the Atlantic 10, finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists but he also turned the ball over six times. Those miscues didn’t hurt Temple however, thanks to the play of Wyatt’s teammates.

Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson played the best game of his college career, establishing career highs in both points (23) and rebounds (18) while also dishing out five assists. And with Scootie Randall (15 points, ten rebounds) and Anthony Lee (ten points) also reaching double figures, Temple (25-of-43 on two-point shots) had more than enough options on the offensive end.

In each of Temple’s five games prior to Thursday Wyatt scored at least 20 points, with Temple going 3-2 and all five contests being decided by one-point margins. Not all of those games featured Wyatt carrying Temple with little help offensively, but getting consistent offense from the supporting cast has been an issue.

If Hollis-Jefferson and Randall, both of whom made La Salle pay for going small after the move initially got the Explorers back into a game they trailed by 19 at one point, can build on their performances tonight Temple will be a better team going forward.

Wyatt’s going to get his points but for Temple to be at their best the scoring load can’t rest solely on his shoulders. It didn’t on Thursday, and the result was a convincing victory over a city rival.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?