Rah-Cheer

For Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, not only his name changed in his junior season. His game has undergone an obvious transformation as well. Hollis-Jefferson, who added his mother's last name this year, scored 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked three shots in 40 minutes of action as Temple held off La Salle, 76-70, for a much-needed win on Wednesday night.

For Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, not only his name changed in his junior season.

His game has undergone an obvious transformation as well.

Hollis-Jefferson, who added his mother's last name this year, scored 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked three shots in 40 minutes of action as Temple held off La Salle, 76-70, for a much-needed win on Wednesday night.

Hollis-Jefferson came to Temple two years ago as a defensive standout whose offensive repertoire consisted almost exclusively of scoring on offensive rebounds.

But on Wednesday night, with La Salle focusing on the Owls' guards, Hollis-Jefferson shot 7-of-11 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line to lead Temple in scoring. His mid-range jumper with the shot clock running down gave the Owls a 74-69 lead with 23 seconds remaining in the game.

"I would hate to think where we would be without him," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "I was so happy for him on that last jump shot he took that went down. Not only was that a great shot, but the two foul shots he hit right before that were great too.

"He's starting to make mid-range jump shots, which is critical, because he's going to get mid-range jump shots. He has to take them, and he has to make his share of them. He can drive it and kick it. He's worked so hard on that part of his game, and we ask so much on the defensive end."

Hollis-Jefferson knows more is expected of him now, especially when a team like the Explorers is going to play help defense on Temple's guards.

"(The guards) are our primary scorers, and I'm just finding open spots and they're finding me," said Hollis-Jefferson. "I'm just more aggressive on the offensive end now. When I get an opportunity, I just take it. It's more part of my role. I need to take those shots when I'm open."

His teammates are gaining that confidence in him. Ramone Moore, who finished with 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting, dished off to Hollis-Jefferson knowing he was going to have to shoot with the clock ticking towards zero.

"We have a lot of unselfish guys, and at the end of the game I had a lot of confidence in Rahlir to take that last-second shot," said Moore. "He's been working all offseason preparing himself for situations like this."

The Owls needed every contribution they could get in the Atlantic 10 battle against their city rivals. Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez each scored 12 points and freshman Anthony Lee scored nine points and blocked five shots in 20 minutes.

Tyreek Duren scored 18 points and Ramon Galloway 17 for the Explorers and the Owls couldn't keep either player – Duren in particular – from getting penetration. La Salle scored 40 points in the paint.

"They're really a hard team to guard, we got hammered on that ball screen on the top of the key and we're asking Anthony to do things he's probably not ready to do," said Dunphy. "We could have done some other things if they hadn't been so good perimeter jump shooting, which was a concern going in. If you told me they were only going to hit five threes, I would have bought into that going in.

"I think we just got a little bit of a lead and I'm hoping our toughness carried us through."

Temple led the entire second half but the Explorers cut the deficit to one on four occasions, three times with the ball and a chance to take the lead.

But the Owls made defensive stops when they had to and shot 58 percent from the field in the second half. Temple was also better at the line, going 18-of-22 to La Salle's 9-of-17.

"The better team won," said La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini. "We didn't defend well enough. They shot 58 percent in the second half, and we didn't do the little things like make free throws. They're extremely talented, well-coached, but we have to do better than 58 percent with the game on the line.

"As soon as you help they get it to the open guy, and a lot of times that guy (helping) is Rahlir's man. If we can guard a little bit better 1-on-1, then we wouldn't have to help as much, and that's where the 58 percent comes in."

Temple improved to 12-5 overall and 2-2 in the A-10. La Salle is 13-6, 2-2. The teams will meet again at La Salle in February.

"The A-10 is up for grabs," said Moore. "It's just going to be a grind."

Fran Dunphy:

Ramone Moore/Juan Fernandez/Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson:

Dr. John Giannini:

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