Listen to reaction from Temple coach Fran Dunphy and players Anthony Lee, Khalif Wyatt and Scootie…
Saturday Night's Alright
So after consecutive setbacks at Kansas and Xavier, there was certainly a bit of added emphasis on Saturday's Atlantic 10 home opener against Saint Louis, with the Owls facing the very real possibility of an 0-2 start in league play.
Temple emphatically answered the challenge, pulling away late for a 64-54 victory and improving to 12-4 overall and 1-1 in the league. Saint Louis is 11-4, 1-1.
"It's a learning experience, even the best teams fall," said Temple senior Scootie Randall. "We just had to look at film from our losses and try to correct those mistakes and prepare for the next task at hand.
"You always feel (motivated) after you lose, and we just had to come out here and get a win in the conference against a great team."
The game started with freshman Quenton DeCosey in the lineup at small forward for the first time, replacing the struggling Randall, who hadn't come off the bench in a regular season game since his sophomore year.
"I went to Scoot today and said ‘Listen, I'd like to give Q an opportunity and I'd like you to tell him he's going to start tonight," said Dunphy. "Scoot handled it really well. He's struggling a little bit. He's not making the same shots he was before. I just wanted to loosen him up a little bit."
Temple did start off the game in decent shape, but DeCosey was scoreless in 10 minutes. Randall played the final 32 minutes, was 1-for-7 for three points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out three assists and totaled two steals.
Dunphy said Randall will likely return to the starting lineup on Wednesday at George Washington but he may change up other positions.
"Coach knows best, so whatever happens happens and I just go with the flow," said Randall. "I just told (DeCosey) he had to be ready. He had to go out there and do what he does best."
The Owls held the Billikens to 34 percent shooting, including 4-of-21 on threes. The Saint Louis backcourt of Kwamain Mitchell and Mike McCall Jr. shot just 2-for-17 with forward Rob Loe's 17 points providing the only real offensive production.
Temple senior Khalif Wyatt scored 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting, continuing a good game, bad game trend that started seven games ago with 20 points against Alcorn.
"I try to go into every game the same, shots haven't been falling some games," said Wyatt. "This team can't afford for me not to make shots, and I need to get more consistent."
Wyatt hit an off-balance three-pointer that gave the Owls a 54-47 lead with 2:19 to play. The senior was trying to draw contact, but didn't get the call and his heave somehow found its way into the basket.
"When I pump-fake and they jump, I'm just trying to get into them," said Wyatt. "Most of the time, about 75 percent, it's a foul. I'm trying to get three free throws, but also trying to get a good shot at the rim so it has a chance of going in. They didn't call it today, but thankfully I put it up soft enough to go in."
Sophomore center Anthony Lee continued his development with 20 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal, while going 8-for-13 from the field.
"My big improvement is feeling more comfortable with the players I'm playing with," said Lee. "Last year I was trying to find my way and fit in. Now I'm more comfortable with what the coaches want me to do and having players with great skill like Scootie and Khalif, Rahlir (Hollis-Jefferson) getting into the lane and dishing the ball off to me. … I just have to finish."
The Billikens' last lead came at 12-11. After taking an eight-point lead into the half, Temple never put Saint Louis away but also didn't allow a run as it stayed more than a one-possession game. Lee and Wyatt hit their free throws down the stretch and the Owls came away with a much-needed win.
"Every game is so critical in this league and to that final goal of making the NCAA Tournament," said Dunphy.
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