TEMPLE COACH Fran Dunphy was concerned with his team's play when it was winning eight of nine. Then, the Owls played without any offensive rhythm again and were upset at home last Wednesday against Canisius.
This did not appear to be good preparation for Saturday's game against No. 3 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. It looked even worse when the Owls trailed by 10 points midway thought the first half.
Then, almost without warning, Temple started to play like Dunphy's good teams always play - smart, sharp, with purpose. And they put on an absolute offensive clinic against the Syracuse zone, attacking it from the foul-line area with high-low passes, ball reversals for open threes and one winning play after another.
When it was done, Temple (9-2) had a win over a Top 10 team for the fifth consecutive season as Khalif Wyatt showed how to play the game with the kind of intelligence that is so often lost in the modern game. Allowed to play at a controlled pace, Wyatt controlled the flow of the game, even while playing down the stretch with four fouls. He finished with a career-best 33 points as Temple won, 83-79.
Wyatt was 15-for-15 from the foul line. He was 8-for-17 from the field. He found every weak spot in the 'Cuse zone and exploited it.
Sophomore big man Anthony Lee (career-best 21 points) was the inside to Wyatt's outside. Operating behind, around and in the middle of the Orange front line, Lee played the game of his life.
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson operated at the high post and was the X factor. Scootie Randall made only two shots, but those threes came when Temple was breaking the game open for the second time in the second half.
Temple made Syracuse's terrific point guard Michael Carter-Williams into a scorer instead of a passer. He had barely half his normal assist total while shooting 3-for-17 and 7-for-15 from the foul line.
Even though Temple controlled much of the game's flow, Syracuse (10-1) attacked hard on offense. And if they had not shot 19-for-36 from the foul line, they might have found a way to win.
This really was a game Temple took; the win ended a week that saw them struggle against Alcorn State on Monday, lose to Canisius on Wednesday and beat No. 3 on Saturday.
So, to review, Temple was a 10-point favorite against Canisius and lost by 10, an 11-point underdog against Syracuse and won by four. Also as part of the review, Syracuse played Canisius on Dec. 15 and won, 85-61.
This game always makes perfect sense.