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March 23, 2013
Rule of thumb
DAYTON, Ohio -- When No. 9 seed Temple plays No. 1 seed Indiana Sunday at UD Arena in an NCAA Tournament East Region game (2:40 p.m.) for the right to advance to the Sweet 16, the Owls will be preparing to slow down a pair of Big Ten first teamers in sophomore forward Cody Zeller and junior guard Victor Oladipo.
However, despite the impending matchup with future NBA-lottery picks, Temple guard Khalif Wyatt drew the most attention in Dayton the day before the game.
Despite netting a game-high 31 points against North Carolina State Friday afternoon, the highest point total to date in the tournament this year, Wyatt enters the game with a question mark. He injured his left thumb in the win against the Wolfpack and was in noticeable pain during the second half of the game.
X-rays conducted after the game came back as negative, and Wyatt did not seem too concerned moving forward.
"[The thumb] is good," Wyatt said. "It's a little sore right now, but it will be fine. It will be fine by tomorrow."
"As [Wyatt] goes we go sometimes," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "He'll be a little tender probably on that thumb, but as we went through the workout today, he rested when he needed to and caught the ball pretty well. I think its always a big concern how you catch the basketball when you have an injury like that."
Wyatt has averaged 23.4 points per game against ranked teams this year despite a six-point performance against No. 2 Duke back on Dec. 8.
In addition to Wyatt, sophomore forward Anthony Lee enters the game with health concerns. Lee played 16 minutes of the Owls' Atlantic 10 tournament game against Massachusetts before leaving with migraine headaches and concussion-like symptoms. He played only eight minutes against NC State and recorded three points in his limited minutes and listed his status as day-to-day and that he was "trying to work his way back into the lineup" against Indiana.
Much like he did in the Owls' tournament game last season, Dunphy used a short bench in beating NC State. Against South Florida last season, Dunphy played three reserves for a total of 21 minutes. Against the Wolfpack Friday, two Owls saw time off the bench.
Guard T.J. DiLeo played 22 minutes and Lee played eight. Dunphy said his short bench was a byproduct of the amount, and length, of the media timeouts in the NCAA tournament.
"With these timeouts, you could take a nap during some of these timeouts," Dunphy said. "I don't have that much to say, I'm not that interesting a guy. It's a long timeout and you get a lot of rest. So that's the nature of the NCAA tournament."
The Owls starters averaged 34 minutes Friday. Senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson played the entire game while senior forward Scootie Randall and Wyatt played 38 minutes. Indiana, a team that is known to run the floor, saw its starters play an average of 27 minutes against No. 16 seed James Madison. The Hoosiers used seven bench players in the 21-point win, but Zeller said he doesn't think fatigue will impact strategy.
"We played a lot of guys yesterday," Zeller said. "With this time of year, you get a lot of adrenaline. I don't feel like I get too tired in games like this just because they are such big games. I don't think it should be that big of a deal."
Oladipo will likely get the task of slowing Wyatt down in one of the better matchups of the day. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year will be paired against the A-10 Player of the Year, who is averaging 19.8 points per game.
"I have been watching him throughout the year," Oladipo said. "He does a lot of things well, a lot of different things in order to score the ball. 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."
Oladipo and Wyatt have taken similar paths to their respective positions. Oladipo and Wyatt were three-and two-star recruits coming out of high school and were overlooked by some bigger programs. Now that they meet on a national stage, Dunphy said the credit belongs to the athletes.
"I would like to tell you it's all player development and me and my staff are killing it with player development," Dunphy said. "But I think it's just a little bit of luck. When you do get somebody that has that little piece of something that you can work with, then you take advantage of it."
Wyatt said he respects Oladipo's skill-set, but he's not intimidated.
"I know if he's guarding me he is going to be up to the challenge," Wyatt said. "I have got to let my game come to me. He's a good defender, but I mean, he is not the first good defender."