DAYTON, Ohio – Led by Khalif Wyatt, the 2012-13 Temple basketball team was arguably the most entertaining in school history.
They didn't usually play great defense.
That made it especially ironic when the Owls lost a knock-down-drag-out NCAA Tournament battle to top-seeded Indiana, 58-52, on Sunday afternoon at UD Arena.
With Wyatt as unstoppable as ever, and all of his teammates playing lockdown defense, the Owls held a slight lead for almost the entire second half against the Hoosiers.
But they missed too many open shots and finally lost that lead in the last two minutes, thanks to a couple big shots from the Hoosiers and a couple questionable calls.
The first big shots came from Jordan Hulls and Cody Zeller, which helped erase Temple's four-point lead with less than three minutes to play. Wyatt and Zeller also made a pair of free throws, which left the score tied at 52 with 90 seconds to go.
Then came the first questionable call, after Wyatt missed a three-pointer, as Victor Oladipo lost the ball as he dribbled up the floor. Wyatt was whistled for a foul, though he was standing still at the midcourt line when it happened.
"I thought I guessed which way he was going pretty good, I got in his way and took the ball," Wyatt said. "I guess it was a blocking foul. I guess I wasn't there in time, or maybe I got him with the body a little bit. Just a call that didn't go our way."
So instead of the Owls having the steal, Oladipo got two free throws. He hit one of them to give the Hoosiers a one-point lead.
Temple had trouble getting the ball to Wyatt on the ensuing possession, so Coach Fran Dunphy called timeout. With 10 seconds left on the shot clock, Will Cummings made an inbounds pass to Wyatt, but it was tipped away by Oladipo. Wyatt might have been able to chase the ball down, but instead he let it bounce out-of-bounds in the backcourt.
Cummings then inbounded the ball to Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson deep in the backcourt, because Wyatt was double-teamed. With eight seconds left on the shot clock, Hollis-Jefferson pushed the ball ahead and missed a 17-foot jumper.
"When I caught the ball, the floor opened up, so I took it up and tried to get to the rim," Hollis-Jefferson explained afterward. "But there were two people in the lane, so I took the jumper. I thought I got hit on the hand or the ball got deflected out of my hand. But the ref didn't call anything."
With 47 seconds to go, the Owls still had a chance if they could make another defensive stop. Instead, the Hoosiers burned 30 seconds off the shot clock before Oladipo hit the game-clinching three.
Wyatt finished with 31 points, while Anthony Lee added 10 and Hollis-Jefferson had eight. But the Owls couldn't overcome the off-target shooting of Scootie Randall (0 for 12), Cummings (0 for 5), and Jake O'Brien (0 for 4). By and large, all of the shots they missed were good, open shots.
Indiana got 16 points from Oladipo and 15 points from Zeller.
So an entertaining and sometimes maddening season ended in a way that few could have expected (except for Wyatt's offensive showcase).
"These are young people, and they're not going to be perfect," Dunphy concluded. "It's the one thing you always realize when dealing with all of us, none of us are perfect and we're going to make some mistakes."
The Party's Over
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