MAYBE WE should have seen something like this coming.
Temple has been winning a bunch of games most folks probably expected them to. Yet the Owls haven't always played the kind of basketball coach Fran Dunphy wants, even if it's still early.
Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center, it finally cost them.
Canisius, off to its best start since 1966-67 (which was also the last time it played Temple) for first-year coach Jim Baron, came from 10 down early in the second half as double-digit underdogs to take down the Owls, 72-62, in the Chevrolet Gotham Classic. It's the first time the Golden Griffins have beaten Temple in five tries.
Should we mention that the Owls had won 11 straight in this building, and 36 of the previous 37?
Or that when they closed last season by losing two in a row, it was their first such streak in more than 100 games? We bring that up only because their next obstacle is unbeaten Syracuse and that dreaded zone on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't know, maybe we're not where we need to be right now," senior guard Khalif Wyatt said. "We'll keep going at it, game by game. After we watch the film [of this], it's over. We'll get ready for Syracuse."
The Owls (8-2), whose only other loss was a 23-pointer early this month to unbeaten Duke in North Jersey, was up early in the second half of this one, 38-28. But Canisius (8-2), which just lost at Syracuse by 24 on Saturday, went on a 15-4 run to take its first lead since 7-6. The Griffs were ahead by six with a little less than 9 minutes to go. Then the Owls scored seven straight, to go back in front 58-57. But they got only two field goals in the final 6 minutes, one on a drive by Wyatt with 2:18 left and another by Jake O'Brien at 5 seconds. The Griffs' last 10 points came at the foul line.
Canisius averages 9.2 threes a game, 15th in the nation. It went 10-for-21, 7-for-12 in the second half. One even banked in. The Owls, who've struggled with their shooting, were 4-for-28, 2-for-16 after intermission. Scootie Randall finished 1-for-12, while Wyatt was 0-for-6. Temple won't win too many games when that happens.
"They love it when it's going in, hate it when it's not," said Wyatt, who still scored a team-high 17 points. "We're going to do what we do well. Shots will start falling and we'll be fine."
O'Brien scored 14 in 15 minutes off the bench, on seven shots (3-for-4 on treys), but didn't play much down the stretch. Dunphy put that on himself. He also noted that the Owls rushed a few from deep, and passed up a few looks they probably should have taken.
"We got out of character a little bit," he said. "[Randall] has to find other ways to help his team."
Lead guard Will Cummings did have a career-high 10, to go with three steals and four rebounds, in 23 minutes. Promising sign. So were fellow sophomore Anthony Lee's 10 points and seven boards in 24. But they didn't get much out of anyone else. Good thing they turned it over only four times, their lowest total in almost 5 years.
Baron, who coached forever at St. Bonaventure and then Rhode Island, has certainly lost his share of games here. But he also knows what it's like to go against Temple. That couldn't have hurt.
His son, Billy, a junior who transferred from Rhode Island with Baron during the offseason and got an NCAA hardship exemption to play right away, had 19. He also had five assists and only one turnover. And as Dunphy pointed out, he attempted only two threes. But Isaac Sosa (3-for-10) and seventh man Reggie Groves (4-for-5) more than made up for that. Groves was averaging 4.6.
"They made shots, we didn't," Wyatt said. "Give a lot of credit to them. They got more stops."
And sometimes, Temple looked as if it stopped itself.
"When you're not playing your best basketball, you're liable to get beat any day," said Cummings. "It comes down to making plays for each other. We just have to work though this."
When asked what he thought the atmosphere at MSG would be, he said, "It'll be noisy."
That was hardly the case on North Broad.
"I'm not overly surprised [by this]," Dunphy acknowledged. "We've been escaping with wins later, but not playing well. We need to be a better basketball team."
Whether they'll be one on Saturday, who knows. Even if they are, it might not make enough difference. At some point, though, they'd better be.