Closer Look: Temple Deals Syracuse First Loss in Gotham Classic

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Twitter Recap: Temple controls glass, dominates paint, decimates SU zone. Too much 1-on-1 offense for Cuse, MCW off, FT shooting abysmal. TU pulls upset.

A wild week for Temple. No more than three days after Canisius—you read right—outclassed Temple in Philly, these mercurial Owls had seemingly changed their outfit, knocking off third-ranked Syracuse in one of the bigger early-season upsets. Temple is usually good for one signature win in the non-conference each year—No. 3 Duke last season, No. 10 Georgetown in 2010, No. 3 Villanova in 2009, No. 8 Tennessee in 2008 and so on down the line—but after Wednesday’s shocking double-digit loss to the Golden Griffins, that hope seemed lost. But Fran Dunphy worked his magic again, spearheading a Temple team caught in transition to pull off an unlikely win.

Dec. 22, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Temple Owls forward Anthony Lee (3) celebrates after winning the game against the Syracuse Orange at Madison Square Garden. Temple won 83-79. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Zone Breaker. Future SU opponents take note. Temple executed the zone-breaking offense to a T, setting up shop in the middle of the 2-3 and using a combination of back-door cutting action and well-spaced shooters on the perimeter to keep the Orange D on its toes. Syracuse’s zone was sliding and shifting out of structure from the opening tip. By the second half, SU switched to a full court pressure look—which got the Orange back into the game—because Temple had been soundly dominating the half court battle.

Game Planning. While Temple’s offense was fluid, crisp and disciplined, Syracuse’s half court sets were anything but. Syracuse played almost the entire second half and much of the first period playing isolation basketball, counting upon its individual matchup advantages to dice to Temple’s man defense. It didn’t work. Two weeks earlier, Duke bludgeoned Temple by working inside-out. Canisius won with a similar, smaller scale formula. Though Syracuse doesn’t have an inside presence like Mason Plumlee on its roster or the arsenal of shooters that Duke has, the Orange could have, better yet should have, implemented many of the tactics that keyed the Blue Devils’ 23-point win. That’s a poor job by Jim Boeheim, never lauded for his in-game adjustments anyway, not switching up his offense to accommodate more ball rotations and inside-out movement. If it can work for Canisius, it can work for Cuse.

Khalif Wyatt. The star Temple guard must have a short memory or a titanium filter. Whatever the case, Wyatt has a knack for coming through in big games. After hanging 22 on Duke in an upset win last year, the senior posted a career-high 33 against Syracuse, lighting up the Orange from the floor, sinking all 15 of his free throws and even shutting down Michael Carter-Williams on the defensive end. Wyatt gave Temple a legitimate chance to win with his stifling D on MCW all afternoon, and he delivered the final blow to the Orange late with his free throw precision.

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