Regaining His Touch

Regaining His Touch

Khalif Wyatt knew coming into the season the Temple men's basketball team would be built around his offensive abilities. And as far as the senior guard was concerned, he wasn't living up to his end of the bargain in the first 10 games despite the team's 8-2 record. That all changed Saturday when Wyatt led an 83-79 upset of Syracuse, the country's third-ranked team, with a career high 33 points.

Khalif Wyatt knew coming into the season the Temple men's basketball team would be built around his offensive abilities.

And as far as the senior guard was concerned, he wasn't living up to his end of the bargain in the first 10 games despite the team's 8-2 record.

That all changed Saturday when Wyatt led an 83-79 upset of Syracuse, the country's third-ranked team, with a career high 33 points in Madison Square Garden. While he continued to struggle from three-point range, going 2-for-8, Wyatt was 8-of-17 from the field and a perfect 15-of-15 from the line.

Wyatt is shooting just 38 percent from the field and 25 percent from three this season, though after the explosion Saturday against Syracuse is averaging 16.2 points per game.

"I haven't been playing my best basketball this year, not necessarily (not) playing good but making shots and taking the right shots," said Wyatt. "I wanted to keep my confidence, my teammates and coaches need me and I've been letting them down a little bit. They count on me to make shots and score the basketball and thus far the shots haven't been going in."

One solution for Wyatt to produce even though he's been in a bit of a shooting slump is to get to the line. He was able to do that effectively Saturday and the Owls needed his flawless performance at the stripe to hold off the Orange.

"This year I've been shooting a lot of threes, today I shot a lot of threes too, but I tried to cut it down and make it in an emphasis to get in the lane and if I got fouled, I got fouled," said Wyatt.

The game almost slipped away from Temple as it was trying to manage Wyatt after he picked up his third foul with just over 11 minutes to go. Wyatt wound up stuck on the sideline during a late stretch when Syracuse clawed back in the game.

"It was frustrating, I only had one foul at halftime, and then I got my third foul on an offensive foul," said Wyatt. "We were trying to go offense/defense, trying to keep me out of foul trouble, but when I got out there I tried to control the pace of the game and get the ball where it needed to be."

Temple played long stretches with Wyatt handling the ball much of the time as starting point guard Will Cummings played just 15 minutes and his backup T.J. Dileo saw 10 minutes of time.

"He did have great patience, he was so good, he's so talented and his IQ is off the charts," said coach Fran Dunphy of Wyatt. "He knows where to go with the ball, he has great poise and a sense of the game and that fearlessness to go to the line and make all 15 foul shots is pretty impressive, but I'm not surprised."

The 72-62 loss to Canisius on Wednesday, in which Wyatt shot 0-for-6 on threes and 6-for-16 overall, might have helped the Owls and their star guard focus on what they needed to do to win Saturday.

"I don't think we win this game if we don't lose on Wednesday," said Dunphy. "We shot too many threes, and Khalif and Scootie shot too many threes.

"I think Khalif took the challenge saying ‘I didn't play well last time out, and I'm going to make my team better' and he did tonight. He was spectacular."

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