First they were good. Then they were lucky.
Sometimes you need both, and the Temple Owls certainly did Saturday night.
Led by Khalif Wyatt's game-high 24 points and Anthony Lee's 20 points and 10 rebounds, Temple held off a second-half Saint Louis charge to claim its first Atlantic 10 victory of the season in a 64-54 win at the Liacouras Center (see Instant Replay).
The win advanced the Owls to 11-4 overall and 1-1 in the conference. It also broke up a two-game losing streak.
"Maybe we were due for a little luck," coach Fran Dunphy said.
The good fortune started with Temple up 43-37 and just under 10 minutes to play. With the shot clock winding down, sophomore point guard Will Cummings drove the lane and put up a floater that landed right where the backboard meets the back iron. The ball sat on the rim for a second before it fell in and put the Owls up eight.
"That was a lucky shot," Dunphy said.
Temple scored its next basket three minutes later when Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson converted a similarly improbable lob.
"I don't want to call it," Dunphy said, before taking time to search for the right words. "It was a left-hand ... seven-and-a-half-foot layup."
That was followed by the Khalif Wyatt Variety Hour. With 2:09 to play, the senior was caught in the corner, tried to draw contact in the air, got hit, didn't get the call and somehow made an off-balance leaner for three.
"When I pump fake and they jump, I'm just trying to get into them, because most of the time it's a foul," Wyatt said. "Maybe like 75 percent of the time it's a foul. They didn't call it today, but thankfully I put it up soft enough on the rim to go in."
Thirty-three seconds later, he drove right, nearly lost the ball, caught it above his head, probably traveled, and found Anthony Lee in the lane. Lee made the basket, was fouled, went to the line, missed the free-throw, and converted off his own rebound to put Temple up eight.
None of it was conventional, but it all worked.
"The pass to Ant was all luck," Wyatt said. "It was a bad possession. I was a little sloppy with the ball, but I kept my focus, was able to hold onto the ball and was able to find Ant.
"The off-balance three -- that was lucky, too. I gotta be more poised down the stretch and make some better plays."
In this case, Temple did enough early on to make up for its later struggles.
Saint Louis -- which had a nine-game winning streak brought to an end and fell to 12-4 and 1-1 -- didn't come out with its usual defensive intensity, allowing Temple to go 13-for-24 from the floor in the first half.
The Billikens cracked down and looked a little more like themselves in the second, as Temple made just 2 of its first 12 shots out of the locker room. Saint Louis cut an eight-point halftime deficit to just four on four separate occasions after halftime and held Temple without a field goal for nearly six minutes. But by the time Saint Louis righted itself on both ends of the floor, Temple was making trick shots governed by the premise that uglier was apparently better.
If anything may have sparked the Owls into dictating the pace early on, Scootie Randall, who has shot just 28 percent in his last nine games, was removed from the starting lineup in favor of Quenton DeCosey. Dunphy went to Randall early in the day to inform of the switch and then had his senior leader personally tell the true freshman he was going to make his first career start.
"He's struggling a little bit," Dunphy said of Randall. "He's not making the same shots he was making before. I'm just trying to loosen him up a little bit, to watch the game from the bench for just a few minutes."
DeCosey played the first 10 minutes, missed two shots and then never saw the floor again. Randall, meanwhile, still got plenty of run in 32 minutes but continued to struggle, making just 1 of his 7 attempts.
Junior transfer Dalton Pepper never left the bench.
"I think I might try this with some other guys ... I'd like to do it with a number of different positions," Dunphy said. "But as you saw at the end, the five guys who have been playing the most (Randall, Wyatt, Lee, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Will Cummings), they finished the game.
"But, again, Scoot's struggling a little bit, and he'll be the first to tell you. But, at this point, he's my son and I'm going to try to guide him through it.
"He's gotta make shots for us to be as good as we can be."
E-mail Nick Menta at firstname.lastname@example.org