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March 24, 2013

Missed opportunity

DAYTON, Ohio - With less than three minutes to play, No. 9 seed Temple had a four-point lead over top-seeded Indiana and a very realistic shot at advancing to the Sweet 16 in its grasp.

With everything working against it, including foul trouble and no one other than Khalif Wyatt stepping up offensively, the Owls were still on the verge of one of the program's biggest wins in recent memory.

But from there, heartbreak set in.

Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, who had trouble guarding Wyatt all afternoon, hit 1 of 2 from the free-throw line with 1 minute, 19 seconds left to give the Hoosiers their first lead of the second half, and then he hit the dagger - an open three-pointer from the top of the key that put Indiana ahead by four and sent it on its way to a 58-52 win Sunday at UD Arena.

Indiana (29-6) advances to the Sweet 16, and Temple's season, along with the careers of Wyatt, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Scootie Randall, TJ DiLeo and Jake O'Brien, came to an end with a 24-10 record.

Wyatt was spectacular in his final college game and did everything he could and more to win it, although he didn't rotate out quickly enough to Oladipo on the decisive three-pointer. He scored 31 points - just as he did Friday in a win over NC State - and got 20 of them in the first half. He shot 12 of 24 overall but just 3 of 12 from three-point range while going a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.

"The whole game they were overplaying me, but I think the last six minutes maybe they just all-out face guarded me full court," Wyatt said. "It was real hard for me to get the ball. I think when I did get it I made a couple of nice plays. It was just really hard for me to get the ball."

But here was the problem - Wyatt, Anthony Lee (10 points) and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (eight points) were the only Temple players to hit field goals Sunday. Randall suffered through a 0-for-12 shooting spell, and Jake O'Brien shot 0-for-4 and committed four fouls, while starting point guard Will Cummings shot 0-for-5. Randall got his only three points from the free-throw line and committed four turnovers.

"I've had days like this," said Randall, who opened the season with a 31-point game, slumped for much of the middle of the season and then recovered down the stretch before Sunday's rough outing. "The only thing that was going through my head when I was missing is keep shooting and do other things to try and help my team. As of now, I just - you can't really do too much about it. It already happened. So just got to move forward."

Temple coach Fran Dunphy decided to stick with his struggling wing forward throughout the game.

"He tried his very best," Dunphy said. "Sometimes you try too hard. But he is somebody you're going to stay with and ride, and he's my son. I feel badly that he didn't make a couple of shots, but he had a great year and a great career."

Otherwise, the Owls got everything else they could have hoped for. They controlled the pace, overcame a 20-11 first half deficit and closed out the first half on an 18-6 run to get a 29-26 lead at the break.

The Owls' lead never grew larger than six points in the second half, and that came when Wyatt hit a jumper at the 10:04 mark to make it a 41-35 ballgame. Wyatt hit two free throws with 3:09 left to give Temple a 52-48 lead, but the Owls never scored again.

A made shot or two from someone like Randall could have written a different ending for Temple.

On Oladipo's three that gave Indiana the decisive, four-point lead, the ball went into the corner to Zeller, where Hollis-Jefferson and Cummings doubled down on him. Wyatt lost track of Oladipo, Zeller found him for the open three, and that put the game away.

Zeller and Oladipo both scored just six points in the first half before finishing with 16 and 15, respectively. Forward Christian Watford had nine points and a big blocked shot on Lee late in the game, and Will Sheehey had 10 off the bench for the Hoosiers.

"Maybe a couple weeks down the road, months or years down the road, we'll look back at it and be proud of what we did," said DiLeo,who had three rebounds, two assists but no points in 21 minutes. "But right now, it still hurts knowing that we could easily be in the Sweet 16 now."

"I think everyone gave their effort," said O'Brien, who went scoreless Sunday after scoring 18 against NC State. "Indiana just made more winning plays down the end. Khalif carried as much as he could. It just really came down to making shots. They made their shots, we didn't make our shots when they counted."

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