Courage. It's the attribute St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli noted great players have when it comes to…
Khalif Wyatt led the way with 25 points and Jake O'Brien came off the bench to score 22 as the Owls earned a much-needed win to improve to 15-7 overall and 4-4 in the league. Charlotte, one of the league's surprise teams, fell to 17-5, 5-3.
The Owls led for all but the first two minutes of the game but almost watched a 12-point lead with 3:37 to go completely disappear under a torrent of turnovers.
After a Scootie Randall turnover gave Charlotte the ball down three in the final 30 seconds, Pierra Henry missed what would have been a game-tying shot. The 49ers grabbed the rebound, but Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson stole the ball — his fifth of the game.
The Owl senior missed two free throws, but Wyatt eventually sealed the game with a free throw that made Henry's buzzer-beating three-pointer pointless in regards to the outcome.
Charlotte shot an incredible 60 percent from the field and 70 percent from three, but the Owls drained 53 percent of their shots and forced 19 turnovers.
"We didn't play our best basketball," admitted Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "Charlotte shot it well. Some of that was them, some of that was us.
"We threw the ball away a number of times, that's not usually what we do. We have to find a way to get our defense more solid."
The Owls' interior defense has been taking a pounding the last few games and they know they have to fix the problem from the inside out.
"Right now, (opponents are) shooting high percentages because they're not shooting jump shots," said Wyatt. "They're pounding it inside. We have to do a better job battling, doing work early, get in better position."
Temple survived Charlotte's offensive assault in part because O'Brien played his best game as an Owl, as did fellow reserve Dalton Pepper, who scored 11. Both players notched Temple career highs.
"I thought I shot it well, got good looks, was mixing it up inside too," said O'Brien. "Offensively, we shared the ball and a lot of guys stepped up. I've been a shooter my whole life, that's kind of my game. Tonight they were falling. It won't be like that every game, but fortunately I got in a rhythm."
Wyatt was coming off a 34-point game against the Hawks where he didn't receive much help. This time, the complementary parts did their part and the senior was happy to see his good friend Pepper break out of a season-long slump.
"We made shots today, guys got shots against St. Joe's that just didn't go down," said Wyatt. "We moved the ball a little more, there were a lot of guys touching the ball. It was huge for Dalton. Me personally, to see him make threes, make some plays, I'm just happy for him."
Wyatt admitted the Owls didn't handle the Charlotte pressure late in the game, but feels it can be an easy fix and was just happy they held on for the win.
"We haven't been pressed like that, it was new," said Wyatt. "Somebody watches this film, I'm sure they'll press us, but I doubt we'll handle it that way again. I take a lot of blame for that. Some decisions I made were bad.
"We can get better, but it was a good win."
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