Temple's Wyatt a one-man show vs. St. Joe's

Temple's Wyatt a one-man show vs. St. Joe's
February 3, 2013, 10:15 am

Khalif Wyatt had already set a new career high for points and threes in a game, and he still had seven-tenths of a second left to make something happen.

But the final play highlighted a lesson Temple should have already learned this year, one it was forced to learn again on Saturday night:

Wyatt can't do everything.

His off-balance attempt came up short as time expired and so did the Owls in a 70-69 loss to the Saint Joseph's Hawks at the Hagan Arena on Saturday night (see Instant Replay).

With the loss, Temple is now 14-7 overall and 3-4 in the Atlantic 10. It's the program's worst start in conference play since Dunphy's first season at Temple, when the 2006-07 Owls started 2-5.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but after his performance on Saturday night, with the SJU crowd taunting him from start to finish, Temple's leading scorer has earned a reprieve.

"Yes, it was," Wyatt said, confirming that Temple's last inbound was drawn up for him. "I wasn't sure how much time .7 was, if I had time to catch and shoot my regular shot or if I had to rush it. So, I rushed it."

Wyatt caught the inbounds on the wing while running diagonally toward the corner. His running release came from near the three-point line as he was moving in the opposite direction of the basket. But he ball never made it to the rim; it was swatted away when the buzzer sounded.

"Oh yeah. Absolutely, he was [the primary option]," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I wasn't going to call a timeout, because they probably would have denied him. It would have more difficult to get him the ball.

"When you have .7, you have a bounce in you. You can bounce it once. I think he just rushed that last shot.

"But I don't want to give the ball to anyone else in that situation than Khalif Wyatt. I thought we were fortunate to have him get it. I didn't think they would allow him to get it."

Wyatt finished with a game- and career-high 34 points on 11-for-24 shooting from the floor, 7-for-14 shooting from three and 5-for-5 shooting from the foul line. He handed out three assists and -- despite dominating Temple's offense -- committed just one turnover.

While Temple was getting massacred in the post -- losing the points-in-the-paint battle, 40-16 -- Wyatt was keeping the Owls afloat from the outside, nailing five threes in the second-half.

The problem: Temple shot 11 of 31 from range. That means, other than Wyatt, the rest of the Owls went 4-for-17 from behind the arc on Saturday night. From the field, take out Wyatt again, and the other seven Owls made just 14 of 41 attempts (34.1 percent). By himself, Wyatt accounted for nearly half of Temple's total points.

"Tonight he had opportunities and I think he took advantage of them," Dunphy said. "He can probably distribute a little more than he did tonight, entrust in his teammates a little bit more. But, for me, any time he has the ball, I think we are a dangerous offensive team."

Dangerous from anywhere -- even a good 35 feet from the basket. That's about the distance of Wyatt's last make. After Halil Kanacevic put St. Joe's ahead by four with 16 seconds to play, it only took Wyatt another five seconds to catch the inbounds, run down the floor, pull up and drain his seventh and final three of the game.

"[Wyatt] just plays like a lot of you guys play," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said, before launching into a longer analysis of Wyatt's rather unique style. "You play 3-on-3 -- that's what he's doing. He's really playing a 3-on-3 game as often as he can. You know, he flails around and he really deserves a lot of credit for the way he plays the game.

"And, again, like come on, that three [with 11 seconds left]. That's just, that's just -- there's a certain talent and he has that talent. He scores the basketball … He's a shot-maker.

"The shot [he hit] the other night against Richmond was almost silly. He shot fakes and he goes off of one foot and makes a three. Here's what people don't understand about guys like that -- courage. He has tremendous courage because he has to live with the fact that he could miss that shot. And that's what shot-makers do. They are willing to take the consequences of a make or miss."

Unfortunately for Dunphy and the Owls, Temple is left with the consequences of having one talented scorer and too many other inconsistent parts.

In each of Wyatt's first three seasons, Temple has made the NCAA tournament. But to get their again, for Temple to make it for the sixth straight season, the Owls need to kick their inconsistency, both individually and as a team.

They need to work for better shots, stop settling for contested threes and exhibit a better effort defensively, Wyatt included.

Then again, it's become hard to criticize his shortcomings on defense when he's become -- sometimes by necessity -- a one-man show on offense.

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