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Khalid Wyatt scored 24 points
Khalif Wyatt and the Temple men's basketball team are on a wild ride, and it's becoming more and more difficult to determine where it will end. Two days after a disheartening home loss to Atlantic 10 bottom-dweller Duquesne seemingly delivered a fatal blow to the Owls' chances of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, an 83-82 win at Massachusetts inched Temple back towards the bubble.
Khalif Wyatt and the Temple men's basketball team are on a wild ride, and it's becoming more and more difficult to determine where it will end.
Two days after a disheartening home loss to Atlantic 10 bottom-dweller Duquesne seemingly delivered a fatal blow to the Owls' chances of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, an 83-82 win at Massachusetts inched Temple back towards the bubble.
It was the fifth straight game decided by one point, with the Owls going 3-2 in the stretch. Continuing another trend, Temple was porous on defense allowing a string of uncontested layups that resulted in the third opponent in the last four scoring over 80 points.
At times, when the Minutemen didn't score, it seemed it was because they missed on an open look instead of the Owls making a stop. Not so on the last possession, though, when Temple held on to its one-point lead by keeping UMass from getting off a shot.
For a team that seemingly had a strong inside defensive presence in Anthony Lee and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson – not to mention small forward Scootie Randall – the Owls have been surprisingly poor on defense this season.
Fortunately, they've had an offense – or more specifically an offensive player – to compensate for their defensive deficiencies.
As usual, it was Wyatt that brought the Owls back for victory Saturday, scoring 17 of his 24 points in the second half after the Minutemen threatened to pull away right after intermission. The Owls trailed, 48-43, at the break.
Wyatt's range is apparently increasing by the game. No matter where he is on the offensive end of the floor, if he is open, he is shooting and there's a good chance the shot is going down. He is averaging 25.2 points per game over the last 11.
Temple is 17-8 overall, 6-5 in the Atlantic 10. Because if its bad losses – Canisius and St. Bonaventure, in addition to Duquesne – it still has work to do to get into the NCAA Tournament.
But with quality opponents in La Salle and Charlotte on the schedule this week, the opportunity is there to make up some ground.
In 2001-2002, Lynn Greer averaged over 23 points per game and showed the range and ability to take over a game – he scored 47 in an overtime victory against Wisconsion – that Wyatt is exhibiting now.
Like this season, that year was up-and-down for the Owls, with the high being a double-overtime thriller they won over St. Joe's at the Palestra, wrapping up the Atlantic 10 Eastern Division crown.
However, Wyatt and the Owls are hoping this season doesn't end the same way. Temple lost to La Salle in the Atlantic 10 Tournament in 2002 and wound up seeing a run of NCAA Tournament appearances end with an invitation to the NIT.