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.