The Quakers kept Khalif Wyatt quiet for a long time. They frustrated him into committing head-scratching fouls and careless turnovers.
But then the beast woke up.
With Temple down nine, 45-36, with just over 15 minutes remaining in the second half, Wyatt dropped seven straight points on his own with two treys and a foul shot to pull the Owls within two.
The Big 5’s leading scorer proceeded to tally 21 points in the frame after being limited to only five in the first, and Temple emerged down the stretch with a 76-69 victory.
“You don’t want anyone else with the ball,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said of his senior guard. “He’s so good at what he does. He’s not only a terrific scorer, but he makes plays for others.”
Wyatt, who scored 16 points during an 18-9 second half Temple run, finished with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists, as well as an uncharacteristic six turnovers.
Dunphy, who left 33rd Street for North Broad seven years ago and hasn’t lost to his former program since 2007, declared that the Quakers (3-15, 0-4 Big 5) played the better game than his Owls (13-5, 2-0) for the fourth year in a row despite not coming away with a win.
And for much of the game, they did play better.
Playing with a self-admitted newfound aggressiveness, junior captain Miles Cartwright led Penn with 21 points, shooting 6-for-14 from the floor and 7-for-7 from the line.
Following Wyatt’s seven-point spurt, he stole a loose ball, drove the length of the court and finished with an and-one layup to put his team back up, 52-45.
Patrick-Lucas Perry, whom Dunphy labeled Penn’s best jump shooter, finished the night with 15 points, all of them threes and no turnovers in 27 minutes.
“Pat stepped up and made shots,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “I just thought that he was locked-in and focused and engaged in the defensive schemes, and he just made plays.”
Immediately upon re-entering the game at the 9:07 mark of the second, he nailed a wide-open three to give the Quakers a lead, 59-57, that T.J. DiLeo had stolen only seconds earlier.
Wyatt, who dropped 21 points after the break, was bottled up and limited to just five in the first half.
And overall, the Red and Blue either held the lead or a tie from 4:56 remaining in the first half until there was 8:52 left in the second.
Still, Allen reiterated his “no moral victories” mantra following the loss — the Quakers’ 10th in 11 games.
“It really doesn’t mean anything to me,” the Penn coach said. “We play the game to win. I coach to win. At the end of the day, we lost the game and it’s a direct function of what we did not do. That has to be our mentality.”
For the first time since 2009-10, Allen’s first season, the Quakers finish Big 5 play with a winless campaign. They’ll have an eight-day layoff before the Ivy League slate picks up again on Feb. 1 against Columbia at the Palestra.
As for Allen, he’s looking forward to the break.
“Time off from games is always great for me — I don’t know if it’s great for the players — because we get to do what we’re allowed to do as coaches, and that’s teach,” Allen said.
“We’ll regroup, we’ll respond. One thing that I can say has been consistent is that these guys give effort. They might not play the smartest of basketball at times, but they play hard. I’m just going to try and match some things with that effort and go out and see where we fall.”
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