By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — It’s been a helter-skelter season for Temple. One moment, the Owls look fantastic. The next, they’re indecisive offensively and foundering. It’s been maddening, especially for Owls’ coach Fran Dunphy. He’s sent a team out on the floor this season uncertain what Owls would show up.
Temple has beaten Syracuse, when the Orangemen were ranked No. 3 in the country—and suffered horrid home losses to Canisius, St. Bonaventure and Duquesne. It’s a program on NCAA Tournament life support that received a huge boost Thursday night with an emphatic 82-74 victory over a very good La Salle team at the Liacouras Center.
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, one of the most underappreciated players in the area, exploded for the Owls, scoring a game-high and career-high 23 points and grabbing a career-high 18 rebounds. Khalif Wyatt tossed in 17 for the Owls, who are in desperation mode.
The Temple model that beat La Salle could have beaten many teams Thursday night. The good Owls showed up Thursday night.
“That’s who we are, we’re consistently inconsistent,” Dunphy said. “Each team is so different and each personality is so different. It gets frustrating at times. But again, no one is perfect, and none of us have all of the answers. I have plenty of ‘I don’t knows’ for an answer. We didn’t get out of character too much. We think we’re better jump shooters when we should be taking the ball to the rim and making a play.”
Temple, which improved to 18-8 overall and 7-5 in the Atlantic 10, will share the Big 5 championship with La Salle, which fell to 18-7 and 8-4 in failing to win its first outright Big 5 title since 1990.
For years, La Salle was the local doormat Temple, Penn, Villanova and St. Joseph’s wiped its feet on. But along came John Giannini in 2004 and the program, and transformation has taken place. La Salle will probably win more than 20 games for the second-straight season.
The Explorers will have to wait for that chance. An 18-1 Temple run in the first half Thursday night delayed it.
“The stage was set for it to be a great game, and Temple more than did their part, they were terrific,” Giannini said. “We weren’t good. When good team plays at a high level and another team has a bad game, it’s the result you saw there tonight. I think we’re going to be fine moving forward. I don’t think it was good time to not be at our best, because there was a lot at stake. Our biggest problem was we just couldn’t stop them all night,. Everything we tried to do, they countered it. They had an answer for everything we did.”