Coming off a disappointing loss to fellow Big 5 member St. Joe’s at Hagan Arena on Hawk Hill this past weekend, the Temple Owls returned home to the Liacouras Center Wednesday night to take on the visiting Charlotte 49ers, a surprise team in the Atlantic-10 Conference this year, coming into the game with an overall record of 17-4, and 5-2 in league play. Both teams ranked just outside the top 50 in RPI, with the Owls at 53rd overall, and Charlotte 51st.
It’s been a turbulent season thus far for Temple (15-7 overall, 4-4 A-10), earning quality wins over teams such as Syracuse, St. Louis and Villanova, while suffering head-scratching losses to lowly St. Bonaventure and Canisius, both at home. With a sub-.500 record in the A-10 coming in, the Owls could ill-afford a home loss to Charlotte. Fortunately for Temple, Seniors Khalif Wyatt and Jake O’Brien scored 25 and 22 points respectively to help them narrowly escape with an 89-88 victory over the 49ers (17-5, 5-3).
6’9 Senior forward Chris Braswell led five Charlotte players in double figures with 23 points, and 6’4 Sophomore guard Pierria Henry was a catalyst on offense, contributing 14 points, nine assists and five steals. The 49ers converted an impressive 60 percent of its field goal attempts on the night, and were even tougher from 3-point range, connecting on 7 of 10 shots from beyond the arc.
The Owls shot a season-high 53.4 percent from the field, drained 7 of 19 (36.8%) from 3-point range, and forced Charlotte into 19 turnovers. Temple led by as many as 13 points in the first half and controlled the game for the latter part of the second half, building an 83-71 lead with 3:37 remaining.
The 49ers simply would not go away however, clawing back into the game by forcing five Owl turnovers over the final 2:09, cutting the lead to 88-85 with 27 seconds left on a three by Denzel Ingram. In what turned out to be a critical play in the game, Charlotte grabbed a long offensive rebound off a missed 3-point attempt by Henry, but Temple’s Rahlir Jefferson stole the ball and was intentionally fouled with 11 seconds remaining. He missed both free throws, but Wyatt would connect on one of two from the charity stripe on the next possession to secure the victory for the home team. Henry made a deep three as time expired to account for the final score, 89-88.
The Owls finished with four players scoring in double figures, led by Wyatt’s 25 points and Jake O’Brien’s career-high 22 points, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Senior forward Jefferson and Junior guard Dalton Pepper each chipped in with 11 points, with Jefferson also adding 5 steals. Khalif Wyatt has been especially hot as of late, averaging just under 25 points per game over Temple’s last 8 contests, solidifying the 6’4 Senior’s distinction as one of the Atlantic-10 Conference’s top players.
Next up for the Owls is a road game against the Dayton Flyers (13-9 overall, 3-5 A10) on Saturday morning, tipping-off at 11:00 AM, in what will be a must-win game for Fran Dunphy‘s squad in order to continue their positive momentum, and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.Tags: College Basketball, Dalton Pepper, Fran Dunphy, Jake O' Brien, Khalif Wyatt, Rahlir Jefferson, Temple