Courtesy of OwlSports.com
PHILADELPHIA- After being held scoreless in the first half, senior guard Khalif Wyatt rose to the occasion and scored 20 points in the second session, including 12 in the final two minutes to help Temple rally back and defeat the Detroit Titans, 83-78, in the Chevrolet Gotham Classic finale on Thursday night at The Liacouras Center.
On the night, the Owls had four players finish in double figures, including senior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, who hauled down a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with 13 points for his third double-double of the season. Senior Scootie Randall chipped in with 18 points, while graduate student Jake O’Brien went a perfect 6-for-6 from the field to tally 16 points on the night.
Wyatt, who has had a knack for coming up big in the game’s final minutes, recovered from one of his toughest shooting nights to lift the Owls over a dangerous Titan squad. Trailing 74-69 with 2:55 to play, the Norristown, Pa. native scored 10 straight points to give Temple a five-point lead, 79-74.
Wyatt first drove through the Detroit defense for a tough lay-up. Graduate student T.J. DiLeo then made the play of the day, stealing a pass and hitting Wyatt for a three he banked in from the top of the key to tie the score at 74.
After a Detroit miss, Wyatt drained another trey from the top of the key to give the Owls the lead. Following another Titan miss, Wyatt connected on two free throws with 27 seconds left for a five-point advantage.
Junior Ray McCallum, who was a game-high scorer with 21 points, broke the Wyatt run with a lay-up. Fouled on the play, McCallum missed the free throw with Randall grabbing his third rebound in the stretch run. The 6-6 swingman got the ball to Wyatt, who was fouled. He calmly made both free throws to ice the game.
Temple had trailed Detroit (19-11) for most of the contest, falling behind by as many as 11 points in the first half. The Titans, who had four double-figure scorers, shot 54.2 percent from the field in the first half and 51.9 percent for the game. They were especially hot from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes, making five of eight (62.5%) of their attempts.
The Owls, who trailed 39-31 at the break, clamped down on their perimeter defense over the final 20 minutes, holding the visitors to 3-of-11 from three. Offensively, TU made 55.6 percent of its shots after intermission.
Wyatt, who missed his first eight shots, finally found the range with a three to give Temple its first lead, 53-51 (10:47) since the opening minutes of the game.
With his shot not falling, Wyatt still contributed, dishing a game-high seven assists while making two steals. Hollis-Jefferson, tenacious on the glass, had a game-high three steals.
Temple tied a program record set by Hall of Fame coach John Chaney’s teams (1995-96 through 2000-01) for consecutive 20 win seasons, posting its sixth straight. The Owls, who are now 20-8 on the year, will return to the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule on Saturday to celebrate Hooter the Owl’s birthday with a 2:00 p.m. tilt against the Rhode Island Rams, presented by Philadelphia Federal Credit Union, at The Liacouras Center (OwlAccess/1210 AM WPHT).