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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

IU takes on Temple for Sweet 16 berth

IUBB Press Conference pre Temple NCAA game

DAYTON, Ohio - Obscure as they may be, several historical tidbits could nonetheless be troubling for the Hoosiers entering Sunday's tilt against Temple with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.

In the 19 times a No. 1 seed has fallen in the round of 32, it has thrice happened in Dayton, the most of any host city.

It gets worse.

In two of those cases, the team pulling the upset hailed from Philadelphia, just as the Owls do.

IU takes on Temple, led by explosive senior guard Khalif Wyatt, Sunday at 2:45 p.m. EDT. The ninth-seeded Owls upset eight-seeded North Carolina State Friday, staking an 18-point halftime lead and holding on to win 76-72.

"They epitomize toughness to me because they extend possessions, they get back, they make it tough for you to score, they move the ball, they can drive it," IU Coach Tom Crean said. "You certainly have to get ready for how good their players are, and it's a tall task. There's no doubt about it."

Associate Head Coach Steve McClain began scouting the Owls almost as soon as IU's draw was revealed on Selection Sunday. Any study of Temple begins with Wyatt, the Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year.

The senior leads his team with 20.2 points per game and has a proclivity for getting to the foul line with just short of 40 percent of his team's free throws (200-of-504). He has shot 83.3 percent from the stripe this season.

"We've just kept trying to look for any similarities that we can bring to our team from our league, and it starts real quick when you get with Wyatt, and you can start making comparisons to Trey Burke and how he plays and how much the ball is in his hands, and not only the way that he shoots it but the way that he delivers it," Crean said. "And we're used to that. Khalif Wyatt takes a backseat to no one in the country right now when it comes to being a complete guard."

Wyatt's status for Sunday's game was briefly thrown in doubt Friday after he suffered a thumb injury in the first half against the Wolfpack and aggravated it in the second period. He had it taped for practice said it remained sore Saturday but will not prevent him from playing against IU.

At 6-foot-4-inches and 210 pounds, Wyatt figures to be primarily defended by junior guard Victor Oladipo. Neither player was an especially heralded recruit out of high school, but each has come to figure prominently in conference player of the year discussions.

"He does a lot of good things well, a lot of different things in order to score the ball," Oladipo said. "If I get drawn to him in an assignment, I'm going to have to do a good job of slowing him down in order for us to win."

Beyond Wyatt, Temple claims four players that average between nine and 11.6 points per game. Among the group is forward Jake O'Brien, who transferred from Boston University and has faced several of the more veteran Hoosiers while at his past school. He averages 9.6 points per game this season primarily coming off the bench.

Besides him, though, the Owls often employ a short bench, including against the Wolfpack. With IU able to largely rest its starters and regular contributors against James Madison, fatigue could come into play for Temple.

"We played a lot of guys yesterday, but this time of year, you get a lot of adrenaline," sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. "I don't feel like I get too tired in games like this just because they're such big games. I don't think it should be that big of a deal."

On paper, the teams boast a number of remarkably similar statistics in categories such as assists, steals and blocks.

However, IU holds a noticeable edge in rebounding margin, the Hoosiers winning board battles by an average of 7.8 rebounds per game this season while the Owls are typically outrebounded by 1.6.

Three players average between 6.8 and 6.1 rebounds for them, but no one else provides more than 3.3.

"I think we're going to have an even bigger challenge tomorrow because Zeller is a big guy," Temple forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson said. "He gets a lot of rebounds, and everyone on their team crashes the boards as well."

Sunday's game is one of two in the round of 32 that matches teams from the Big Ten against the Atlantic 10, the tournament's two most successful conferences in the second round with records of 6-1 and 6-0 respectively.

"Each league is really competitive," Dunphy said. "I think ours this year was absolutely superb... But I don't think it's any different than most leagues. We're playing against a Big Ten team, and it's a great, great league, top to bottom.”

Temple has been an enigma this season, playing in the Atlantic 10 and even posting a win against dangerous VCU. At the same time, though, the Owls have a puzzling loss to Duquesne on their record and lost by 23 points to Duke in one of its few major conference tests.

"We know we're playing against a team that can compete with anybody in the country because they have, when you look at the people that they have played this year," Crean said. "It's like a who's who of people that are in the NCAA Tournament, when you start to look at Duke, Kansas, Syracuse, and certainly the people that are in their league."

Entering IU's NCAA opener against James Madison, players and coaches alike noted the Dukes' plethora of seniors. Likewise, the Owls have a number of veterans, often a hallmark of mid-major teams still in contention in late March.

"We know Temple's been in this tournament for the last six years, so we know they've got a lot of experience, a lot of tournament experience," senior forward Christian Watford said. "But any team playing around this time of year is a great tough team, so you really can't take them lightly or anything like that."

Dating back to last season, IU has posted at least 40 points per half in its last eight halves in the NCAA tournament. Dunphy said playing a high-scoring team like the Wolfpack on Friday will not necessarily help his team against the speedy Hoosiers, though.

"One of the concerns about Indiana is that they push the basketball on makes and misses and they have great transition game and they find each other very, very well," Dunphy said. "So we have to be prepared for any style of game tomorrow."

IU has not played Temple since 2003 and trails the overall series between the two tradition-rich programs 5-4. Both rank in the top 10 all-time for victories, with Temple sixth and IU 10th.

With Temple President Neil Theobald - until December the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for IU - in attendance, IU will look to even the all-time score and avenge a Temple win in the teams' last meeting.

"That's the beauty of this tournament, there's so many good teams," Oladipo said. "If you're in this tournament and playing at this time, you've got to be good, which is why you've got to be ready to play every night."

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