The question asked going into Temple's matchup with #3 Duke was whether or not they would be able to take care of business in the paint with the injured Micheal Eric still out. But by the end of the contest it was apparent that wasn't the biggest issue to be addressed for either team as the Owls won 78-73.
Temple relies heavily on their guards for offense, and Duke didn't have the answers for Fran Dunphy's perimeter players on either end of the floor. Khalif Wyatt led Temple with 22 points, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson added 17 and three other players scored 11 points in leading the program to their first win over Duke since 1996 (nine meetings).
"I think there was only one way we could win, and that is to manage the game and have those three guys [in control]," said Temple head coach Fran Dunphy of Moore, Wyatt and Juan Fernandez. "And they're pretty good basketball players and they're going to be able to make good decisions with the ball."
Rebounding wasn't a concern for the Owls either as they out-rebounded Duke 32-29. Temple did turn the ball over 17 times in the win, but the Owls also forced 16 Duke turnovers with eleven coming by way of a steal. Duke's guards had a rough time on both ends of the floor, but the more glaring issue for the Blue Devils came on the defensive end.
As a team Temple shot 56.4% from the field as they were able to find the looks they desired when running their offense. Duke on the other hand made 47.5% of their shots, and while that's not a bad number the good looks were tougher to come by for Mike Krzyzewski's team. There's also the offensive end of the floor for the Duke perimeter, which failed to take advantage of the play of big men Mason and Miles Plumlee, who combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds.
Duke's starting guards (Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton) combined to make seven of twenty-one shots from the field while reserves Quinn Cook (2-6 FG) and Andre Dawkins (0-3 FG) didn't fare much better. Outside of Rivers the Blue Devils (right now) don't have players who can apply pressure to defenses with their playmaking ability, and that got them in trouble against Temple's experienced backcourt.
The key for Rivers, who will likely have to develop into the lead option for this role, is to develop into a guard who can also set up his teammates. That may be Duke's best hope in the long-term when thinking about whether or not they can win a national title.
"We wanted to take away the three and try to run them off the three-point line a little bit," said Dunphy of their defensive strategy. "I was pleased with our defense and obviously when you can win a game like this, everybody has to play well and you have to get a little lucky, and I think we did that."
The benefit of a game like this in defeat is that Duke has a far better idea of what they need to clean up going into ACC play than they likely would had this contest been against a lesser opponent. As for Temple, winning in front of the third-largest crowd to watch a basketball game at Wells Fargo Center is quite the boost for the program as they go into Atlantic 10 play.
There's been more than enough time to adjust to not having Eric or Scootie Randall, and the Owls will benefit as it has allowed player such as Anthony Lee to take advantage of more playing time. With Xavier going through their struggles the top spot in the A-10 is up for grabs, and Temple is more than capable of grabbing the regular season title.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Georgetown comes back from 17 down to beat #20 Marquette.
With 13:13 left in the game Buzz Williams' Golden Eagles led #9 Georgetown 56-39 and looked to be well on their way to a big conference road victory. But the Hoyas refused to quit, rallying all the way back to tie the score at 66 with 2:33 to go. And John Thompson III's team completed the comeback in thrilling fashion as Hollis Thompson knocked down a three with 24 seconds remaining to give the Hoyas a 73-70 win at the Verizon Center. Jason Clark scored a game-high 26 points to lead the victors, but the big switch occurred in the points in the paint and "paint touches" that are a core value of the Marquette program.
In the first half the Golden Eagles held a 22-8 edge in points in the paint, taking a 43-29 lead into the half as a result. Things flipped in the second half, as Georgetown outscored Marquette 20-4 in the paint. Marquette also falied to score a single fast break point in the second half, and Georgetown taking better care of the basketball (five turnovers compared to 12 in the first half) had a lot to do with that. Georgetown added another line to what is currently the Big East's best resume with a thrilling comeback, while Marquette was issued a tough reminder of what happens when they stray away from what makes them so successful.
2. Kansas controls the boards in a double-digit win over #22 Kansas State.
With Kansas State being the better rebounding team entering Wednesday's showdown it was imperative that Kansas take care of the glass at Allen Fieldhouse. Bill Self's team did that and then some, bludgeoning the Wildcats to the tune of a 50-26 edge on the boards in a 67-49 victory. K-State didn't help themselves by shooting 31.6% from the field (Kansas made 45.5% of their shots) either, but for the Wildcats to resort to shooting 20 three-pointers (making five) is an issue for a team that makes just 33% of their three-pointers on the season.
Thomas Robinson led the way for Kansas with 15 points and 14 rebounds, but it was the play of Travis Releford that stole the show. Releford scored a team-high 16 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds for his first career double-double, providing the help that Kansas will need more of as the season wears on if they're to compete with a team like Baylor in the race for the Big 12 title. Jeff Withey chipped in with eight points and six blocks, rebounding from an uninspired performance in the Jayhawks' win over North Dakota. If guys such as Releford and Withey can be consistent factors Kansas can win another conference title.
3. La Salle takes controls of the game late in the first half on their way to a win over Xavier.
It's been tough sledding for Chris Mack's Xavier club since the brawl with Cincinnati in December, as the combination of suspensions and a challenging schedule proved to be a bit much for the Musketeers. But with all parties involved back, should it really be taking this long to regain the confidence and chemistry they had before that incident? That's a definite concern for Xavier going forward, but on Wednesday night it was all about Dr. John Giannini's Explorers at Tom Gola Arena.
With the program's greatest player not named Tom Gola (Lionel Simmons) in attendance, La Salle closed the first half on a 22-6 run and went on to win 80-70 in the Atlantic 10 opener for both teams. Earl Pettis scored 23 points and Ramon Galloway added 16 as four players reached double figures for the Explorers, who have now won nine of their last ten games. La Salle assisted on 20 of their 26 baskets, and outscoring Xavier 27-12 from deep was key as well. Xavier will be the attention-grabber due to the preseason expectations, but be sure to keep an eye on the Explorers as well.
1. Northwestern was presented a nice opportunity to pick up a quality win with Illinois visiting Evanston, and Bill Carmody's Wildcats couldn't get the job done as they fell 57-56. Myers Leonard's block of a Drew Crawford shot in the final seconds preserved the win for the Fighting Illini, dropping Northwestern to 1-2 in Big Ten play.
2. Without Josh Benson, Dayton still found a way to win their Atlantic 10 opener as they beat Saint Louis 79-72 in overtime. Cody Ellis banked in a three with two seconds remaining to send the game to overtime, but the Billikens were unable to get over the hump in the extra session. Kevin Dillard led the Flyers with 18 points.
3. Yancy Gates (and Cheikh Mbodj) returned to the floor for Cincinnati, chipping in with six points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the Bearcats' 71-55 win over Notre Dame. Dion Dixon led Mick Cronin's team with 18 points, and Cincinnati has the look of a team that's comfortable in its new style. UC hasn't lost since the brawl with crosstown rival Xavier, winning seven straight games.
4. Well, it may be time to start taking Ron Hunter's Georgia State team seriously, as they followed up a win over Drexel with a 55-53 win at VCU tonight. Jihad Ali scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who are now 3-0 in CAA play and have an overall record of 11-3.
5. Even with wins over Robert Morris and Charlotte there wasn't the most positive feeling about Memphis' hopes as they approach Conference USA play. That may have changed on Wednesday as the Tigers beat Tennessee 69-51, controlling the run of play for much of the night. Antonio Barton led the Tigers with 19 points and Tarik Black added 18 and seven rebounds.
6. Iowa held on despite some bad free throw shooting to win their second straight conference road game, 64-62 at Minnesota. Matt Gatens scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes while Minnesota shot 4-for-23 from deep, allowing Iowa to get away with Melsahn Basabe going scoreless in 11 minutes of action.
7. There may not be a better piece of evidence to use in explaining the wild nature of the Missouri Valley than the fact that Southern Illinois is now 2-1 in league play thanks to their 74-65 win at Bradley. Mamadou Seck played very well, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to lead the Salukis to their second straight league victory. SIU is part of a six-way tie for first place in the MVC.
8. Someone may want to frame the box score from Florida State's 85-56 win over Auburn, because in all honesty it's going to be tough for the Seminoles to match that offensive output in ACC play. FSU made 70.5% of their two-point shots while Auburn made just a third of theirs, scoring 16 points in the first half (FSU led 50-16 at the break). Michael Snaer led the victors with 22 points.
Three Notable Performances
1. C Garrett Stutz (Wichita State)
Stutz scored a career-high 29 points (12-14 FG), grabbed ten rebounds, dished out four assists and blocked three shots in the Shockers' 67-66 win at Evansville. Colt Ryan paced the Purple Aces with 31 points.
2. F Jamelle Hagins (Delaware)
21 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots in the Blue Hens' 67-66 win over Hofstra.
3. G Mike James (Lamar)
31 points (12-16 FG) and three steals in the Cardinals' 74-58 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.