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Temple 84, Virginia Commonwealth 76

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Mark it down: Temple's headed back to March Madness.

Khalif Wyatt scored a game-high 30 points as the Owls picked up their third win over a ranked team this season, storming back from a big early deficit to beat No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth 84-76 in the Atlantic 10 Conference's regular-season finale.

Temple broke the game open with under seven minutes to play, when Scootie Randall and Wyatt hit 3-pointers 11 seconds apart -- sandwiched around a Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson steal -- to turn a six-point advantage into a 68-56 lead with 6:31 remaining.

Jake O'Brien tied it at 46 with a 3-pointer with 15:50 remaining, the first tie since it was 12-12 six minutes into the game. Another O'Brien 3-pointer a little more than a minute later put Temple on top, and the Owls' momentum snowballed from there to their seventh straight victory.

The win most likely locks up an NCAA Tournament at-large berth for Temple, which already had a neutral-court win over then-No. 3 Syracuse and road victories at Saint Louis and Villanova on the resumé. It also locked up the No. 3 seed in next weekend's Atlantic 10 tournament and a bye to the quarterfinals on Friday.

The Owls trailed by as many as 16 early but pulled back to within five points at the half on the shoulders of Wyatt, the odds-on favorite to win Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. A 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Wyatt put on yet another electric performance in his final home game, hitting 8 of 18 shots from the floor and 13 of 16 free throws.

After Temple opened the game by jumping out to a nine-point lead, VCU's "Havoc" defense started to kick in. Spurred by the Owls' first three turnovers of the game, the Rams went on a 22-2 run to lead 24-14 with 9:55 remaining before the half.

Virginia Commonwealth came into the game as the seventh-best 3-point shooting team in the A-10 at 35.0 percent but hit all six of their attempts in the first half. But they made only 2 of 9 from beyond the arc in the second half.

NOTES: Temple was the fourth A-10 team that VCU faced for the first time ever this season (Fordham, Duquesne, UMass). The Rams were 3-0 in those games. ... VCU has 42 road/neutral-court wins in the last two years, the second-highest mark in the country in that span (Kansas, 45). ... O'Brien, a Boston University transfer playing his only season at Temple, has scored in double figures in seven straight games.
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