No. 22 Temple beats La Salle 80-79 in OT

Temple's Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson left, Khalif Wyatt, center, and Juan Fernandez react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against La Salle on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. Temple won 80-79 in overtime. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

February 22, 2012 8:55:12 PM PST
Earl Pettis hit one big shot after another until his last one.

Ramone Moore scored five of his 18 points in overtime to help No. 22 Temple overcome a spectacular effort by Pettis and win its 11th straight game, 80-79 over La Salle on Wednesday night.

"We should be able to manage the game better," Owls coach Fran Dunphy said after his team blew a 10-point lead with 2:47 left in regulation.

Khalif Wyatt scored 25 points and Michael Eric had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Temple (22-5, 11-2 Atlantic 10), which moved into the Top 25 this week for the first time this season.

Pettis had a career-high 33 points, including the last seven in regulation, for La Salle (18-10, 7-6).

Pettis hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring in overtime before Temple scored the next nine points. Moore hit a 3-pointer and then his jumper gave the Owls a 76-74 lead they didn't relinquish.

After four free throws by Temple, Tyreek Duren's 3-pointer got La Salle within 80-77. Pettis hit a bank shot to cut it to 80-79. After Juan Fernandez missed a layup, the Explorers set up the last shot, but Pettis and Sam Mills missed 3-point attempts before the buzzer sounded.

"It felt good, but it just didn't fall," Pettis said about his last 3 from the top of the key. "I was just looking to be aggressive, trying to make a play. Everyone is upset, but we can't hang our heads."

The Explorers lost for the second time in 14 home games this season.

A raucous sellout crowd turned out at Tom Gola Arena for a matchup of Big 5 rivals, and there was plenty of trash-talking in the student section. A moment of silence was observed before the game for former La Salle player Alonzo Lewis, who died Tuesday night. Lewis, a two-time state champion as a coach at Chester High School, was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1980.

Dunphy, a La Salle alum, said he sat with Lewis for an hour at the Big 5 Hall of Fame luncheon on Tuesday afternoon.

"I got the chance to be with a guy I admired so much and who helped so many people," Dunphy said. "When I got that call this morning, my heart was broken."

The Owls seemed to have the game well in hand before Pettis took over in the final 2 minutes of regulation. Pettis hit a jumper, made two free throws and then nailed a 3-pointer to tie it 71-71. After Wyatt missed a jumper, Duren missed a layup. Wyatt had the ball after a timeout with 5.6 seconds left, but he didn't get a shot off before the buzzer.

"It's my fault," Wyatt said of losing track of the clock.

Temple's last basket in regulation came with 4:05 left.

The Explorers took their first lead since early in the first half on two free throws by Jerrell Wright with 11:14 left. Duren hit a 3-pointer to get them within a point before Wright finished off a 9-0 run at the free throw line.

But the Owls answered as Wyatt scored 10 straight points. He started with a 3-pointer then had a steal and dunked. Another 3 followed. Then he nailed a jumper to give Temple a 59-50 lead. Pettis finally ended Wyatt's show with a jumper.

"He was spectacular," Dunphy said of Wyatt. "He's a great offensive player and I'm proud of his defensive effort against Pettis as well. He's a fearless kid, he wants the opportunity and he takes advantage of it."

The Owls built a 10-point lead in the first half, but La Salle cut it to 32-29 by halftime. An alley-oop pass to Galloway thrilled the crowd and Devon White followed with a dunk off a pass from Galloway to finish off the 9-2 run.

"It was a great game," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "We did a lot of things right to give ourselves a chance to win."

Temple improved to 3-0 against city opponents and will face Saint Joseph's on Saturday night.

The Owls might be playing their last season in the Atlantic 10. Reports surfaced earlier in the day that Temple and the Big East are talking about the Owls rejoining the conference for all sports as soon as next season.