Listen to comments from Temple coach Fran Dunphy, La Salle coach John Giannini and Owl players…
RHJ, Owls Share Big 5 Title
But over the last two games, the senior has produced two of the better all-around games of his career, with his 23 points, 18 rebounds – both career highs - and five assists giving Temple an 82-74 victory over La Salle that clinched a share of the Big 5 title.
"I mean, I just came out aggressive and my teammates were looking for me and I was able to knock down my shots tonight," said Hollis-Jefferson in his typical understated way. "I just had it going."
The Owls and Explorers both finished 3-1 in the Big 5. Temple is 18-8 overall and 7-5 in the Atlantic 10, while La Salle dropped to 18-7, 8-4.
When you look at the Owls' toughest losses this season – to Canisius, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne and St. Joseph's, Hollis-Jefferson was a non-factor. He didn't have more than six points or four rebounds in any of those games.
His three double-digit rebound games came against Syracuse in December, Massachusetts this past Saturday and La Salle – three of the bigger wins of the season - and the Owls are 8-2 when he hits double-digits in points. Against the Minutemen, Hollis-Jefferson came close to a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
On Thursday, Hollis-Jefferson had two big tip-ins to stem the tide when La Salle threatened in the second half. Then at the end of the game he drained three straight mid-range jumpers to seal the deal.
"They were able to get into the game by getting to the basket and when we saw they were getting closer, we decided we had to stop that right there," said Hollis-Jefferson. "I got tip-ins and (Khalif Wyatt) started making shots."
Wyatt scored 17 points, Scootie Randall had 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Temple placed five players in double figures. Most importantly, the Owls played good defense – at least for a half, holding the Explorers to 25 points and 32 percent shooting.
"We knew how much this game meant for us," said Wyatt. "We need every game right now. It was because of our defense, getting stops and holding them to one shot. We played good defense, got out in transition. Our defense sparked our offense.
"We've definitely been inconsistent on defense, but we've shown we can guard for stretches. We just have to put it together for 40 minutes."
The second-half defense – the Explorers made 18-of-32 shots and scored 49 points – didn't please coach Fran Dunphy, but he credited his team for bouncing back after a tough loss to Duquesne a week ago.
"I'm real pleased, this is a really good win for us," said Dunphy. "Rahlir was just spectacular, not ony the jump shooting but tip-ins that were so critical because they were coming at us. We did a good job on the defensive end (in the first half), and we made some shots."
The Explorers had won four straight and six of seven, but after point guard Tyreek Duren went to the bench with his second foul in the first half they fell apart. Temple finished the first half on an 18-1 run.
"The stage was set for a great game, and Temple more than did their part," said La Salle coach John Giannini. "They were terrific. We weren't good. We picked a bad time to not be our best.
"Losing at Temple is not a bad loss. It was disappointing. We might have played badly, but it's not a bad loss. I don't want to be one of those guys that says we didn't play well and it didn't have anything to do with them. We missed some shots at the rim, but they were tremendous."
With the City Series title in their pocket, the Owls are focused on improving their seeding for the A-10 Tournament – they are currently sixth – and strengthening their case for the NCAA.
"I was excited, more than I have been in a while because everybody was talking about this game," said Wyatt. "It was a big win, but we need them all. Every win the rest of the way is going to be the best we ever had."
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