NEW YORK -- A quick look at Temple's 83-79 win against Syracuse in the Gotham Classic.
Overview: Three days after a woeful effort against Canisius, Temple beat a bigger New York state team, handing No. 3 Syracuse its first loss of the season.
The reasons were simple: The Owls played a better fundamental game, shooting well from the free throw line, where the Orange were awful; taking their time to find the open man, while Syracuse opted for one-on-one isolation plays, praying someone would make a play; and simply outplaying and outhustling the Orange.
Maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising. In Syracuse’s last game, its myriad of mistakes -- coughing up a 20-point lead to allow Detroit to make it a 4-point game -- were overshadowed by the news of Jim Boeheim’s 900th win.
This is certainly not a major loss to Syracuse, not this early in the season. And the Owls are a good team, the loss to Canisius notwithstanding. Still, it exposed some weaknesses for the Orange offensively and defensively that need to be addressed before the Big East season dawns.
The other question: Could this be the jump-start the Owls need? Fran Dunphy thought his team had been coasting, and wasn't even a little bit surprised Temple lost to Canisius.
Turning point: Up 74-73 with 1:20 left, Khalif Wyatt coughed up the ball, giving Syracuse a huge chance. Brandon Triche went for the quick dagger, but his 3-pointer circled off the rim. Michael Carter-Williams grabbed the rebound, but his drive came up short. Wyatt ended up with the ball and went to the line, calmly sinking both free throws.
Key player: Split honors between Wyatt and Anthony Lee, who both had career-highs in scoring. Wyatt led the Owls in scoring and just about everywhere else. Wyatt scored 33, but also led Temple from his point guard position. Lee, meantime, all but eliminated the Orange’s height advantage, using aggressive and strong post moves to the tune of 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Key stat: They’re called free throws, but for Syracuse they were more like penalty shots. While the Owls sunk 29 of 36, Syracuse -- a 66 percent free throw-shooting team -- was an anemic 19-of-34. That's 15 points left on the Madison Square Garden court.
Miscellaneous: As an unranked team, Temple now has knocked off a top-10 opponent in each of past five seasons. … Jim Boeheim will have to wait for win No. 901. … Conference realignment tidbit of the day: Syracuse vs. Temple was a Big East football game this year, but it will never be a Big East basketball game. Syracuse is leaving before the Owls join as full members. … Madison Square Garden honored the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary with green ribbons on the court and a moment of silence before the game. …
Next game: Syracuse closes out 2012 with winnable games against Alcorn State and Central Connecticut before turning its attention to the Big East. The Orange begin their final year in the league against Rutgers on Jan. 2. … The Owls, meantime, host Ray McCallum and Detroit on Friday and Bowling Green on Sunday (both pesky opponents), and then travel to Kansas on Jan. 6. The Jayhawks are pretty pesky, too.