Wyatt leads Temple to victory over Wagner

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Khalif Wyatt (left) had a season-high 26 points in Temple’s win over Wagner. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

Anthony Bellino (@Bellino_Anthony)

There are days when a player is feeling it in warm-ups, and today was one of those days for senior guard Khalif Wyatt.

Wyatt led Temple (5-0) to a 70-62 victory over Wagner (2-4) with a game-high 26 points and three assists, using an inside-out attack scoring on a plethora of scoop shots and 3-pointers alike.

“I was just taking shots that my teammates were getting me, my teammates were setting me good screens,” Wyatt said. “They were getting me the ball in a position where I can be effectice and the ball was just going in today.”

Fran Dunphy’s Temple team had to play much of the game without starting center Anthony Lee who went to the bench with 17:01 to play in the first half with two fouls and picked up his third early in the second half upon returning to the floor.

“(Lee) needs to stay on the floor better than he did,” Dunphy said. ”In the second half you can’t pick up your third fould right away but you have to be smarter in beating people to the spot.”

With Lee being absent for much of the game it was on Wyatt, senior guard Scootie Randall and senior forward Jake O’Brien to carry the scoring load. To go along with Wyatt’s 26 points, Randall added 10 and O’Brien scored eight. Randall was one rebound away from a double-double and senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson added seven points and seven rebounds.

For the second consecutive game Dunphy got a boost off the bench from freshman guard Quenton DeCosey. DeCosey hit two three-pointers in the first half and was on the court with just a few minutes left in the game. Dunphy isn’t one to thrust freshman into big spots but with the way DeCosey scores the basketball he’s earned his spot in the rotation. DeCosey finished the afternoon with 6 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal in 10 minutes of work.

Scootie Randall had 10 points and nine rebounds for Temple. (Photo: Josh Verlin)

“When we recruited (DeCosey) the thing we liked the most was that he could pretty much get wherever he wants to go on the court,” Dunphy said of the New Jersey native. “He did make two threes today but it’s not as easy as it looks, before you can make them you have to get them.”

Bashir Mason’s Wagner team played hard in a back-and-forth game that wasn’t decided until the very end. Mason, who at 28 is the nation’s youngest coach, coached his team with a ton of emotion and the Seahawks thrived off of their first-year head coach.

Wagner got great minutes off the bench from sophomore forward Mario Moody, who finished the game with nine points and 14 rebounds–seven of which came on the offensive end. The Seahawks’ leading scorer, senior Jonathan Williams, added 15 points. Wagner worked hard to keep the game close until the final minutes of the game, not ever letting it get out of reach.

“We got outworked today, if we get outwored we’re going to pay the consequences for it,” Dunphy said. “I’m hoping that we’re also tough enough to make critical shots at critical times.”

If Temple executes against Villanova and Duke the way they did against Wagner it could be a long week for Dunphy and his squad. Temple now has three days off before they head to The Pavilion to play City 6 rival Villanova on Wednesday.

“I think the only thing we can do as a team is prepare, the only thing the coaches can do with us is show us film and talk about what’s going to happen,” Randall said of preparing for the upcoming week. “Us as players we have to find a way to get it done, I think whatever you do to prepare for a team it doesn’t matter, it’s all about when the lights come on and the tip-off comes.”

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