Standing in front of throngs of media people and excited boosters, moments after earning one of the biggest wins of his coaching career, Temple head coach Fran Dunphy stopped short when asked how much confidence he has in Khalif Wyatt.
How could he best describe the trigger-happy junior guard? With the help of a reporter, he eventually settled on one word.
And that, Dunphy said, is what we need in a game like this.
Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, Wyatt poured in a game-high 22 points including three crucial three-pointers in the second half to propel unranked Temple to a surprising 78-73 win over No. 5 Duke in front of a sellout crowd of 20,420, many of who rushed the court (see story) following the thrilling upset.
Wyatt also had a season-high five steals, four rebounds and three assists to help the Owls (10-3) hand Duke (12-2) just its second loss of the season and send Mike Krzyzewski, the all-time winningest coach in Division I mens basketball, back to Durham stuck on 912 all-time victories.
Afterwards, Krzyzewski bemoaned the defeat but dished Wyatt, Dunphy and the entire Temple program some serious compliments.
Hes one of the best coaches in the United States, Krzyzewski said of Dunphy. His kids are big, tough kids. They know how to play and they play with great toughness and camaraderie. They just outplayed us. We obviously didnt play well but that doesnt take away from how well they played.
Then there's Wyatt, who drained back-to-back three-pointers the second one coming with Dukes Andre Dawkins hand planted directly in front of his face to turn a slim 60-57 Temple lead into a commanding 66-57 advantage with four minutes remaining.
Wyatt is a big-shot guy, Krzyzewki said. He can go 1 for 10 and hit the big shot. He just believes in himself and you love that in a kid. And you love that Dunph puts him in a position to do that.
Every shot is not gonna go in, said Wyatt, who also buried a key long-ball that pushed Temples lead to seven with just over 10 minutes left. Tonight I was making shots and my teammates trusted me and I just kept coming through for them.
Of course, not just one player can carry the entire load to take down a national powerhouse. And Wyatt was not the only one for Temple who had a big night.
Four different players Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (season-high 17 points), Ramone Moore (11 points), Anthony Lee (11 points) and Aaron Brown (11 points) scored in double figures for the Owls, who shot nearly 60 percent from the floor in the first half to build a 35-33 halftime lead, one they would never relinquish.
With the win, the Owls have now beaten a top-10 team in four straight seasons. It also marked only the second time Krzyzewski has lost to an Atlantic 10 opponent in 38 tries, the other one also coming against Temple (back in 1996).
I dont even think it hit me yet, Moore said. It means a lot. Its just something we believed we could do coming into the game. Im not sure how many other people thought that way but we believed it.
Perhaps one reason why many people believed Duke would prevail was the significant size advantage the Blue Devils had against a shorthanded Temple team thats playing without two key injured players: center Michael Eric and forward Scootie Randall.
And Duke, to its credit, did use that size to its advantage, getting a combined 33 points and 17 rebounds from 6-foot-10 brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee, both of whom tried to carry the visitors on their back in the final 10 minutes.
But while the Plumlee brothers had big nights in the City of Brotherly Love, the Owls didnt let the Blue Devils completely impose their will inside. In fact, Temple out-rebounded Duke, 32-29, and Owls redshirt freshman Lee held his own with 13 points, five rebounds and three blocks.
I thought he did a great job and had a couple of great drives to the rim to avoid the charge and finish the play, Dunphy said of Lee. I was proud of him.
As expected, Lee had his share of troubles slowing down the Plumlees, but the Owls survived in part because only one other player on Duke freshman phenom Austin Rivers scored in double figures. And Rivers, Dukes leading scorer, had a tough night shooting, going just 3 for 11 from the floor.
I think you go into a game like this thinking that if they do beat you up inside and get a number of two-point field goals, its going to prevent them from going on big runs, which is what they do, Dunphy said. I mentioned that before the game that typically when you play them you feel like youre in pretty good shape and they get a 10-point run against you. Then that four-point deficit becomes 14 and then they do it again in the second half.
But on Wednesday night, that crippling Duke run never came. The goliaths of college basketball crashed hard to the floor, with nary a whimper. And for Temple, it was a beautiful thing.
The quality and the success of the Duke program and what Mike has done its an incredible basketball program and for us to come out on top tonight is very, very nice for a lot of people, Dunphy said. There are a lot of Temple folks and Philadelphians and certainly our team and our program were thrilled to be standing here as winners tonight.
Wednesdays result marked Temples first win at the Wells Fargo Center. All three of their previous losses at the Sixers home arena came to Duke. Temples other wins over top-10 teams in the last three seasons came against Tennessee in 2008, Villanova in 2009 and Georgetown in 2010. The Temple coaches and players rode the subway from campus to the arena as a tribute to all those Temple people that have done that for so many years, Dunphy said. When asked if he saw an upset like this coming, Coach K responded, Come on. If I saw it coming, I would have faked an illness. In the locker room after the game, Dunphy almost immediately turned his attention to Atlantic-10 play, which opens for the Owls with a home game against Dayton on Saturday. Yeah, Im sort of a jackass, the Temple coach said to a room full of laughter.
E-mail Dave Zeitlin at email@example.com.