Saturday afternoon, #3 Syracuse was tripped up for the first time on the season, dropping an 83-79 decision to Temple in the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Orange (10-1) were uncharacteristically uncomfortable at their “home away from home” shooting 2-of-12 from three-point range and making only 19-of-34 free throws in the game.
The Owls (9-2) had no such issues, getting career bests of 33 and 21 points from Khalif Wyatt and Anthony Lee, respectively. Wyatt, in particular, was troublesome for SU, making all 15 of his free throws as Temple made 29 of their 36 charity shots in the game.
The two squads opened the game with matching scores until an Owl three-pointer nudged them into a 7-6 lead. Syracuse responded with an 8-1 that took less than two minutes for a 14-8 lead with less than seven minutes off the clock. The lead stayed in that range until a pair of Rakeem Christmas dunks around a free throw gave the Orange a double-digit lead at 24-14 just after the midpoint of the half.
Temple responded with a 12-3 run to get within a single point by the six-minute mark. SU replied with the next four points to rebuild a 31-26 lead, but Temple knotted the score at 35 a side. Syracuse rang up five in a row, but a late Owl three clipped the SU lead to 40-38 at halftime.
Temple opened the second half with a 13-2 run for a 51-42 lead, but the Orange fought back. Syracuse outscored their foes 11-2 to force a 53-53 tie with 13 minutes to play. Again the two teams matched scored for a three-minute span, then the Owls utilized an 11-3 run for a 70-62 lead with under eight minutes remaining. Four Orange free throws got them within four points, but Temple rose the challenge, quickly extending the lead to seven points with 5:17 on the clock.
SU got the next six points to close within 74-73 with 1:20 to play and got a turnover to regain possession, but could not get a three-pointer or subsequent lay-up to go and committed a foul. The Owls knocked down six free throws around an SU score for an 80-75 lead with 35 ticks remaining.
The Orange got a layup after Temple missed a pair at the stripe, but another pair of Temple free throws put them back up by five. Syracuse added a dunk to get within three, but the Owls got one of two charity shots to go up by four points with nine seconds to go and hung on as the Orange missed a pair of final second shots.
C.J. Fair paced the Orange with a personal-best 25 points. Brandon Triche added 17 points, including a dozen in the opening half. Michael Carter-Williams added three steals to his 13 points and Baye Moussa Keita chipped in with 12 points.
Following a week off, Syracuse will return to action on Saturday when they welcome Alcorn State to the Carrier Dome. The game is available on television on the Big East Network.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)