By Joseph Santoliquito
Dayton, OH (CBS)—Temple elbowed. And shoved. And pushed. And lowered shoulders. And made Indiana Hoosiers go running to the dressing room holding aloft body parts and returning bandaged, with protective vests on under their jerseys.
The Owls brought a brand of the Philly playground bump-and-grind to the No. 1-seeded Hoosiers in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday before a red-clad, Indiana-partisan crowd at Dayton Arena.
About the only thing the Owls didn’t do was punch someone in the face. They were that physical with the genteel Hoosiers. That seemed to punch a hole through Indiana’s psyche for 39 minutes. Temple pounded the Hoosiers on the offense boards, 14-4.
The only other thing the Owls didn’t do was make shots in crucial moments — especially the last minute, losing to Indiana, 58-52, in a war in the East regional.
Victor Oladipo’s three-pointer with :14 seconds left was the dagger through the Owls, whose season ended 24-10. The setback wasted an amazing effort by Temple’s Khalif Wyatt, who scored a game-high 31 points.
The Owls led, 52-48, in a pair of Wyatt free throws with 3:09 to play. Then Temple didn’t score again. The Owls looked disjointed on offense, running down the shot clock and scrambling in the few remaining seconds to throw anything up they could.
Indiana, much to its credit, chipped away. Oladipo finished with 16, and Cody Zeller ended with 15.
Two things stood out: Temple’s Scootie Randall scored three points all from the line, going 0-for-12 from the floor. The other damming moment came with 2:19 left, and Temple up, 52-50. Indiana’s Christian Watford came from behind to block a sure slam by Temple’s Anthony Lee, then Randle followed by missing a layup.
That one sequence will no doubt leave an indelible impression about this game.
Otherwise, Temple gave one of the nation’s best teams more than a scare.
“Temple is as tough a team physically and mentally as we’ve faced all year, and we faced the best all year in the Big 10, and they take a backseat to nobody,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean, the brother-in-law of John and Jim Harbaugh.
Temple did it making just 33-percent of its shots (21 of 62). But it was mostly, if not all, Wyatt. He already had 20 points by halftime on 8 for 14 shooting. The rest of the Owls were a putrid 9 for 38.
What can’t be ignored, however, was the bulwark defense provided by Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, and deft interior passing by T.J. DiLeo, the inside defense by Lee, and the way the Owls crashed the offense boards.
It wasn’t pretty. Temple didn’t intend nor want it to be pretty.
Somehow, someway, Temple went into halftime leading, 29-26, which tied Indiana’s largest halftime deficit this season. The Owls benefitted greatly from Zeller’s foul problems. The Hoosiers’ 7-foot sophomore forward averages 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds a game played 10 minutes in the first half and sat out the last 6:51 after picking up his second foul.
With 2:37 left in the half, Lee’s slam—off a great feed from a driving DiLeo—gave Temple its first lead of the game, 26-24. It marked the first time Indiana trailed in the tournament.
Temple had managed to stay with Indiana. The Owls were locked in a 24-24 tie, despite themselves. The first 17 minutes was the Wyatt show. He had scored 20 of Temple’s first 24 points on 8 of 12 shooting, while the rest of the Owls were a rusty 2 of 18—and still tied with the No. 1 seed in the East bracket.
Defense was a big reason. While Temple shot 35-percent in the first half, Indiana didn’t shoot much better, making 38-percent (10 of 26) and were outrebounded 21-19, with Temple grabbing eight offensive rebounds to Indiana’s four.
Much of that was due to Zeller strapped to the bench in foul trouble.