Wyatt, Lee and Owls Catch Orange by Surprise in Upset Win

Nick LantzCorrespondent IIDecember 23, 2012

Temple and Syracuse tip off at MSG
Temple and Syracuse tip off at MSG

The Temple Owls beat the Syracuse Orange 83-79 Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in New York. Senior guard Khalif Wyatt had 33 points and sophomore big man Anthony Lee had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Owls, both setting career highs in scoring. Syracuse forward C.J. Fair also recorded a career high with 25 points, but that was not enough to overcome Temple’s strong shooting.

The win was Temple’s fifth victory over a top 10 opponent in the past five seasons. Syracuse (10-1) is third in both the AP and USA Today polls. Although the Orange shot better (44.6 percent) on the day than Temple (39 percent), the difference in the game was free-throw shooting.

The Owls hit 29-of-36 free throw attempts (80 percent) compared to a lowly 55.6 percent by Syracuse. Wyatt was perfect from the charity stripe making all 15 of his free throws. Temple also hit eight three-pointers, while Syracuse connected on just two.

In a game where the officials seemed to not lay off of their whistles, executing from the line was very important. Overall 46 fouls were called in the contest drawing irritation from both squads. Syracuse fans, which filled the majority of the seats, showed their displeasure with the officiating often.

However, the Orange had plenty of chances from the line, but could not execute. Sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams struggled throughout, especially from the line, making just seven of his 15 free-throw attempts.

Temple (9-2) just seemed to out-hustle the Orange on numerous possessions. Lee especially played hard, scrapping for every rebound and tough point he could. Along with his 21 points, Lee grabbed 11 rebounds and hit 11 of 14 free throw attempts.

On the other hand, the big men for Syracuse struggled as starters Dajuan Coleman and Rakeem Christmas combined for just four points. Brandon Triche got hot early on, but was slowed in the second half finishing with 17 points. Baye-Moussa Keita scored 12 points and grabbed eight boards.

Both teams came into Saturday’s matchup coming off of disappointing performances earlier in the week. Temple suffered its second loss of the season Wednesday falling to Canisius 72-62 where they shot just 4-of-28 from beyond the arc.

Syracuse managed to defeat Detroit 72-68 for Jim Boeheim’s 900th win, but nearly blew a 22-point second-half lead. Syracuse's leading scorer James Southerland had 22 points in that game, but the Owls held him to just six points Saturday. Carter-Williams, who leads the country in assists, had only six against Temple and was just 3-of-17 from the field.

Syracuse scored their first bucket just seconds into the game and had as large as a 10-point lead in the first half. The Owls climbed their way back to make it just a two-point game at the half.

The second half was a completely different story as it took the Orange over four-and-a-half minutes to make their first basket and Temple got off to a 13-2 run to start the half. Wyatt had 20 points at halftime and continued that success into the second. This is not the first time Wyatt has had a big game against a top opponent. He had 22 in Temple’s upset victory over Duke last season in Philadelphia.

Fran Dunphy’s Owls have been a giant killer in each of their previous five seasons. In 2008 they brought down No. 8 Tennessee, the following year it was No. 2 Villanova, and then they upset No. 8 Georgetown in 2010 before last season’s win over Duke.

Temple responded to a tough loss with perhaps their best outing of the year against the Orange. Though the thousands of Orange fans did what they could to try to lift their team, Temple was able to keep the Garden silent for most of the second half. Syracuse hosts Alcorn State next weekend and Temple will have to face that difficult Detroit squad on Friday, all part of the Gotham Classic.

Side Notes: Carter-Williams played despite being caught shoplifting. Temple students traveled well and were chanting “Lord and Taylor” every time he was at the line, the store in which he allegedly shoplifted.