NEW YORK - Before winning a conference title, notching a 20-win season, and advancing to the NCAA tournament, the first annual task for Temple is beating a top 10 opponent.
Once again, the Owls accomplished that feat.
Temple upset third-ranked Syracuse, 83-79, Saturday in the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden.
It is the fifth consecutive season the Owls (9-2) have knocked off a top 10 opponent. And this upset came three days after an embarrassing home loss to Canisius.
"I guess some people are going to ask, 'How did we lose to Canisius and come back and beat Syracuse?' " said Temple guard Khalif Wyatt, who scored a career-high 33 points. "But we just want to put that behind us. This is going to be the start to getting on the right path and playing our best basketball and putting some wins together."
This was arguably the Owls' biggest victory in coach Fran Dunphy's seven seasons on North Broad Street. Playing in front of 12,648 mostly Syracuse fans in the "Mecca of basketball," Temple snapped the Orange's 52-game regular-season, nonconference winning streak. The Owls also handed the Orange (10-1) their first regular-season loss of any kind since a 68-57 setback at Notre Dame on Jan. 21. That winning streak lasted 20 games.
Wyatt had a lot to do with Saturday's outcome.
The 6-foot-4 senior guard was 15 for 15 from the foul line en route to being named the game's most outstanding player. None of his free throws were bigger than the six he made to hold off Syracuse in the final minute. He also helped to bring Temple back from a 10-point deficit before intermission with 20 first-half points.
"I just wanted to show the world that Temple is a good program," said Wyatt, who struggled from the field in the previous four games. "I just wanted to broadcast that for the world."
Sophomore center Anthony Lee added 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots in the victory. Like Wyatt, he excelled from the foul line, making 11 of 14.
As a team, Temple made 29 of 36 free throws compared with 19 of 34 for Syracuse.
"You don't like to say it comes down that, but when you miss 15 free throws it is going to be tough to win any game," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
The Owls also shut down Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore made just 3 of 17 shots - including 0 for 5 on three-pointers - in scoring 13 points.
"This victory basically says if we play to our potential and our ability, we can go very far in the [NCAA] tournament," Lee said.