Sparked by an 18-1 run to end the first half, the Temple Owls (18-8) took control of the La Salle Explorers for a 82-74 win in front of a sell-out crowd at the Liacouras Center Thursday night. The win sealed the Owls' status as Big 5 champions for the third time in four years. They'll share this year's Big 5 title with La Salle.
Rhalir Hollis-Jefferson registered his second straight double-double scoring 23 points for the Owls, while grabbing 17 rebounds and dishing out five assists. The 23 points and 17 rebounds were a career-high for Hollis-Jefferson.
"There's no better kid that I've had a chance to coach," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "The reality is that if we're going to be a good offensive team, he's going to get mid-range jump shots ... [Thursday night] he stepped up for us ... I'm going to miss him greatly not only as a player but as a human being."
Khalif Wyatt added 17 in the win, while Scootie Randall had a double-double (15, 10). Anthony Lee and Jake O'Brien each added 10.
La Salle cut the Owls lead to just 62-53 with 9:11 remaining in the second half before a Temple run and four consecutive points from Hollis-Jefferson pushed the lead back up to 82-64 with just 1:48 left in the game.
Ramon Galloway led the Explorers (18-7) with a double-double (18, 10). Tyreek Duren scored 16 and Tyrone Garland added 14.
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Temple's victory keeps their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
"We knew how much this game meant for us," said Wyatt. "We need every game right now. We're just going to take it one game at a time and we're not going to look too far ahead. [We'll] enjoy this tonight and then it's on to Charlotte."