PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/21/2013 – In one the year of the most anticipated games of year the Temple Owls met the LaSalle Explorers. The game captured the college basketball spotlight. This was a game that would decide the city title. Would LaSalle win it outright or would Temple share it with them? Would the Explorers retain an Atlantic 10 Tournament bye? Would La Salle solidify and NCAA Tournament bid or join Temple on the bubble? Temple had the answers in the game earning an 82 – 74 win earning a share of the city title with LaSalle. Temple registered a solid victory by playing a better game according to Explorers Coach Dr. John Giannini.
“The stage was set for it to be a great game, and Temple more than did their part,” said Giannini. “They were terrific. We weren’t good. When one team plays at a high level and the other team has a bad game, the result was what you saw. It was a bad time we picked to not be at our best. There was a lot at stake. Our biggest problem was that we couldn’t stop them all night, they scored. Their size and strength bothered us. Whatever we tried to do, they countered it. They had an answer for everything that we did. They beat us inside. They beat us off the dribble. They made shots. They played together.”
The game also featured three of the players in the city that are Player of the Year candidates in Temple guard Khalif Wyatt, and LaSalle guards Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren. However, it was a Temple big man that stole the show as senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson registered his second double-double with 23 points and 18 rebounds, both career-highs, to go along with 5 assists.
“I just came out aggressive,” said Hollis-Jefferson. “My teammates were looking for me. I was able to knock down my shots. I just had it going.”
The Temple forwards outplayed their LaSalle counterparts, especially in the first half, as senior forward Scootie Randall scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Sophomore center Anthony Lee and graduate forward Jake O’Brien score 10 points each. Temple out rebounded LaSalle 42 – 27.
Explorers guards Galloway and Duren scored 18 and 16 points in their matchup against Wyatt who scored 17 points, but baskets by the Owl guard would come at key times in the second half to keep a cushion between Temple and LaSalle.
The game started with both teams playing crisply on offense. The game was tied at 13 less than six minutes into the game. LaSalle went on a 7 – 1 run to take their largest lead at 20 – 14 with 11:23 remaining in the first half. Momentum was on the Explorers side despite Duren being on the bench with 2 fouls. Or so it appeared. Temple scored the next seven points to take a 21 – 2o lead. The Explorers would regain their lead at 24 – 23 at the 7:30 mark, but the Owls would take control of the game by ending the half with an 18 – 1 run. LaSalle was held scoreless for over 7 minutes and missed 8 field goal attempts. Temple completed the run without Wyatt scoring a point that stretch.
“It was our defense,” Wyatt explained on how Temple got on the run. “We were getting stops and holding them to one shot. We played good defense, got out in transition, and guys were making shots.”
LaSalle would not go quietly as they regained their offense behind junior guard Tyrone Garland who scored 8 of his 14 points in a 14 – 6 run that brought LaSalle to within 9 points at 62 – 53 with just over 9 minutes remaining. As LaSalle was making their charge Temple would get key baskets on follow-up baskets and a dunk by Hollis-Jefferson. Leading by 10 points Temple would take control on a jumper and a three-pointer by Wyatt giving the Owls a 71 – 56 lead with 6:49 to play.
“My teammates depend on me to make good plays when we need them,” Wyatt said. “They (LaSalle) made a nice run and got back into the game. Coach Dunphy out the ball in my hands. I was trying to make plays for my teammates and just take what the defense gave me. My teammates trusted me with the ball and I tried to reward them.”
Later three consecutive jumpers by Hollis-Jefferson stretched the lead to 18 points with 1:44 left to play. La Salle scored the last 10 points of the game.
“Rahlir was spectacular, not only on the jumpers, but the tip-ins that was critical for us to maintain a decent cushion as they were coming after us,” said Temple Coach Fran Dunphy.
LaSalle is 18 – 7 on the season and are 8 – 4 on the Atlantic 10 with four games left to play. Temple improves to 18 – 8 one game behind in the Atlantic 10 standings. Both teams lay claim to the esteemed title of Big Five champion.
“Anytime you can be a champion or co-champion in this city is really important,” said Dunphy. “That’s the nicest thing that happened to us tonight. We won another league game, but we got a share of a title that’s very meaningful to all of the people that followed the Big Five for so many years.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian