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Saturday, Dec. 9
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

IU weathers Wyatt’s 31-point game

DAYTON, Ohio — Since he was Temple’s leading scorer by nearly nine points entering Sunday’s game, IU knew the man they would have to stop was Owls’ guard, Khalif Wyatt.

It was easier said than done.

To an extent, IU never stopped him. It slowed him down, but he still notched 31 points.
What the Hoosiers did do, however, was keep any other Owls from factoring in on the scoreboard. Wyatt scored 31 of Temple’s 52 points as a late surge put IU in back-to-back Sweet 16s for the first time since 1994.

“It really became more about, if he can’t catch it, he can’t shoot it, so let’s do everything we can do from the very beginning to not let him get it,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “And then just keep an eye on those guys and read them. He’s that good.”

Excluding Wyatt, Temple shot just 9-for-38 from the field. Only one player besides Wyatt, forward Anthony Lee, even reached his season scoring average.

Perhaps no player was more flummoxed by IU’s defense than starting Owl guard Scootie Randall.

Playing in his last ever college game, the graduate student went 0-for-12 from the field, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range. His three points all came on free throws.

It seemed as if Randall epitomized the offensive ineptitude of Wyatt’s supporting cast Sunday afternoon.

“It’s one of those things that happens,” Temple Coach Fran Dunphy said. “He tried his very best. Sometimes you try too hard.”

Even with the lack of firepower from other sources, though, the Owls remained in the game. Wyatt simply carried them on his shoulders, especially in the first half.

It was evident from the get-go that the Owl offense would run through Wyatt, perhaps even more than usual.

He put his team on the board early with a drive right through the lane against a much larger defender — senior forward Christian Watford.

He would score Temple’s first seven points, but this one-man show looked to be insufficient against an early IU lead that would build to 18-9.

With the score at 20-11 and IU threatening to break away, Temple — or more specifically, Wyatt — launched a 13-4 run to knot the score at 24. Through shots ranging from mid-range jumpers to free throws, layups to 3-pointers, Wyatt accounted for all 13 points on the run that threw momentum on Temple’s side.

“I was just being aggressive,” Wyatt said. “My teammates kept coming to me, and I was just being aggressive.”

All told, Wyatt scored 20 of Temple’s first 24 points as whispers began of a possible run at Austin Carr’s single-game NCAA tournament scoring record of 61.

“He plays at his own pace, and nothing, nothing speeds him up,” junior guard Victor Oladipo said. “It doesn’t matter who you put on him. He’s going to play at the same pace. That’s why he’s such a good guard. He does a great job of creating space for himself and getting his angles to the rim.”

Held to just two points in the game’s next 12 and a half minutes, extending into the second half, it appeared for a time that IU had finally solved Wyatt’s Paul Pierce-like

IU employed a variety of defenders on him, from Oladipo as his primary defender to players ranging from sophomore guard Remy Abell to sophomore forward Cody Zeller.

“I wasn’t the only one who was guarding him, so credit to (junior forward) Will Sheehey, Remy Abell. Christian (Watford) got on him a few times, even Cody was on him — just throwing different bodies at him,” Oladipo said. “It’s not a one man show. Without my teammates, we couldn’t have slowed him down.”

Yet Wyatt was not quite done in the second half, hitting two jumpers in 34 seconds to push the Owl lead to six and a 3-pointer minutes later break a tie. But the furious Hoosier comeback required a consistency from Wyatt and his teammates that simply never materialized.

Wyatt made pair of free throws with 3:09 remaining that put Temple up 52-48. Perhaps fittingly, though, those would be Temple’s final scores of the game, his teammates unable to pick up where Wyatt left off.

Wyatt’s outburst should not have been unexpected for the Hoosiers. Sunday marked the seventh and final game of his senior season in which Wyatt scored at least 30 points.

“In the first half, I was letting him catch it easy and just letting him have a comfort game,” Oladipo said. “He was comfortable. In the second half, we kind of limited his touches and made it hard for him to even move.”

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