NEW YORK Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim received the loudest ovation from the fans at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, some of whom arrived with signs and shirts celebrating his latest career accomplishment.
On Monday, Boeheim joined Dukes Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as the only Division I mens coaches to reach 900 victories. But on Saturday, Boeheim was in a less than festive mood. The No. 3 Orange breezed through their first 10 games of the season, winning all by no fewer than nine points, but Temple provided a more difficult test.
After falling behind by 10 points in the first half, the resilient Owls knocked off Syracuse, 83-79, in the Gotham Classic.
Temple, which was stunned by Canisius on Wednesday, losing by 72-62, grabbed 44 rebounds and made 29 of 36 free throws against Syracuse.
I dont know that we would have won today if we had not lost Wednesday, Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
That game we got a little bit of a comeuppance, Dunphy added. They played better than we did. I think our kids understood the task at hand today.
Guard Khalif Wyatt, a senior quietly emerging as one of the nations toughest offensive players, scored a career-high 33 points for Temple (9-2). As an under-recruited freshman out of Norristown, Pa., Wyatt hardly played his first year. Dunphy said he told him after that season to make a list of colleges he would consider transferring to.
I was just trying to motivate him, Dunphy said.
I didnt really want him going anywhere.
Wyatt responded by improving his work ethic. Last season, he finished fourth in scoring (17.1 points per game) in the Atlantic 10 conference.
Wyatt found his stroke at the right time Saturday. With his team trailing, 31-26, with four minutes remaining in the first half, he scored 10 points to help pull Temple within 40-38.
In the second half, the Orange (10-1) went nearly five minutes without a field goal and fell behind by 51-42, their largest deficit this season. Still, they found ways to climb back. Center Baye Moussa Keita scored eight of his 12 points in the second half, while C.J. Fair finished with a team-high 25.
But Syracuse could not get over the hump. The Orange cut the deficit to 74-73 with 1 minute 20 seconds left, but missed shots by Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams allowed Temple to run down the clock.
You miss 15 free-throws, its going to be tough to win any game, Boeheim said of the teams 19-for-34 performance from the line.
Carter-Williams, Syracuses sinewy sophomore guard, was averaging 10.7 assists, the most in the nation, coming into the game. But Temples defense forced him to put up shots, opting not to collapse on him when he drove to the hoop.
They tried to deny everyone else when I drove so I couldnt make plays, Carter-Williams said. I was just trying to get in the air and create some contact. We just came up short.
As a result, he made just three of 17 field-goal attempts and was seven for 15 from the line.
The Orange are making 64.8 percent of their free throws this season, but they are hitting only 56.7 percent in their last four games.
They didnt shoot well in the two games they lost, but they shot pretty good tonight and they made their free throws, Boeheim said. We didnt.
After losing three key players Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo from the team that made the NCAA tournament quarterfinals a year ago, Syracuse was ranked ninth in the preseason poll but has exceeded expectations.
James Southerland, a senior, leads the team in scoring with 15.9 points per game off the bench.
Triche and Fair can be explosive offensively.
They take their cue from the fiery Boeheim. In 50 years since enrolling at Syracuse as a freshman guard in 1962, he has lost little of his edge. He ended his news conference after his 900th win on Monday with an 85-second discourse on gun control, knowing that his platform would help give the issue a higher profile. But the pulpit after a loss did not offer a similar opportunity.
It was Temples day.
I like our team, Dunphy said.
We dont always do the right things all the time, but I like our team.