PHILADELPHIA, January 4, 2012 – When you are playing the number 3 team in the country as an underdog, coming into the game you must believe you can win the game. It was a difficult task for the Temple Owls as they took the Wells Fargo Center floor against the highly ranked Duke Blue Devils. Temple had not beaten Duke in nine consecutive tries. But Temple believed they could win. After all, Temple has knocked off a top-10 team in each of the last three seasons. Now, make it four seasons as the Owls upset the top 5 Duke Blue Devils 78 – 73 in front of a raucous crowd of 20,420 in attendance.
“We wanted to play well and come out and do what Coach Dunphy emphasized,” said Senior guard Ramone Moore. “We did a good job and we wanted to beat those guys. ”
“It’s something we believed we could do, and came in here and did a good job.”
The Owls led 35 – 33 at halftime. They proved to themselves that they could play with Duke.
Temple has always been a team that prizes defense. The game plan was to try to limit the three-point shooting by Duke who averaged 8.4 made three’s per game. Temple limited Duke to 6 of 14 shooting from three-point land. For the game Duke made 28 of 59 field goal attempts. The Owls forced 16 Blue Devil turnovers resulting in 21 points. By making Duke go inside it meant that the Plumlee brothers would be a force on offense. Miles Plumlee scored a team-high 17 points, while Mason added 16 points and 13 rebounds, 7 on the offensive glass.
“We wanted to take away the three-point shot (from Duke),” said Temple Coach Fran Dunphy. “That kept them from going on a run. We defended well most of the game. The Plumlee’s were hard to handle inside.”
On the floor in order to pull the upset Temple needed an outstanding effort from their three guards; Senior Juan Fernandez, Junior Khalif Wyatt, and Moore. The Owls got it as the big three combined for 37 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds and 7 steals.
“The only way we could win was to manage the game with those three,” said Dunphy. “They did exactly what we needed them to do.”
Wyatt led all scorers with 22 points making 8 of 12 field goals, 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, and had 5 steals. The native of Norristown made two of his trey’s in a key sequence late in the game. With 5:05 on the clock Duke cut the Temple lead to 3 points at 60 – 57 on a free throw by Mason Plumlee. Wyatt hit a three with 4:42 to play to increase the lead to 6. On the Owls next possession Wyatt made another long three to give his team a 66 – 57 lead with 4:00 to play.
“I eyed it up and made a big shot,” said Wyatt. “My teammates trusted me, so I had to come through for them tonight. I just kept coming through for them.”
“He’s got huge courage, no fear,” Dunphy said about Wyatt. “That’s what you need. Those two three’s gave us a little space.”
A finger roll by Redshirt Freshman center Anthony Lee gave Temple an 11 point lead, the largest of the game. Moore added 11 points and 4 assists, while Fernandez scored 4 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds.
“In order for us to win everybody’s got to do a great job,” said Dunphy. “When you can win a game like this everybody has to play well, and you have to be a little bit lucky.”
The were also players that needed to step up. Those who contributed to the win were Lee with 11 points and a team-high 7 rebounds. Reserve Junior guard T.J. DiLeo gave his team 2 steals and an assist. Sophomore guard Aaron scored 11 points. Junior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson scored 17 points and had 6 rebounds. Jefferson turned in the decisive play that gave Temple the final cushion they needed. Duke cut the deficit to 6 with 1:25 to play as Mason Plumlee tipped in a follow-up shot. Duke put on the press. Temple got the ball inbounds and to Moore in the open court. Moore found Hollis-Jefferson cutting along the baseline and got him the ball. Hollis-Jefferson made the layup and a free throw to increase the lead to 74 – 65 with 46.9 seconds on the clock. Duke did not go away, but Temple converted 5 of 6 free throws for the remainder of the game. When the horn sounded, the Temple faithful rushed the court.
“When the students rushed the floor, that’s when you have arrived as a basketball program,” said Dunphy.
“Temple has a program,” said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski. “You’re playing a tradition, not a team, Temple has a rich tradition in college basketball. They’ll get kids who’ll believe they will win, and do win.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian