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Temple comes up short in 58-44 loss to USF

South Florida forward Victor Rudd Jr. (2) fights for a rebound with Temple's Michael Eric (50) and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (32) in the first half of a second-round NCAA college basketball tournament game on Friday, March 16, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. South Florida forward Victor Rudd Jr. (2) fights for a rebound with Temple's Michael Eric (50) and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (32) in the first half of a second-round NCAA college basketball tournament game on Friday, March 16, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Donn Jones)
By Teresa M. Walker
AP Sports Writer / March 17, 2012
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NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Temple Owls set their standards very high for this NCAA tournament. And yet again, they head home early.

The Owls' offense dried up Friday night, and they wound up with their worst shooting performance this season in a 58-44 loss to 12th-seeded South Florida in the Midwest Regional.

This isn't what the Atlantic 10 regular season champs expected. With two seniors in Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez, and center Micheal Eric already a graduate, the Owls had set their sights on at least reaching the regional semifinals for the first time since 2001. Now they finish their careers having lost three of their final five games.

"We just didn't come out and do our job," Moore said. "We've got to put it on ourselves. Too bad. You know I can't do anything about it now at the end of my career. I just want these guys to learn from this experience and be better next year."

Khalif Wyatt led Temple (24-8) with 19 points, and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson had 10. Temple got a bruising preview of the Big East, which the Owls join in all sports in 2013-14.

This was their fifth consecutive NCAA berth and 30th overall for the program, but not even a pre-game phone call from Bill Cosby helped them avoid the early exit.

Now they have some explaining to do after shooting a season-low 35.7 percent (15 of 42). Moore came in leading the Owls with 17.7 points per game but finished with five, his third game this season in single digits.

"It's very disappointing," Moore said. "I think coming into the tournament we wanted to make it as far as possible. We've got to give credit to South Florida. They did a great job. There's nothing we can do now. Just look back on it and say we could have did more. But I mean, wanted to go further, but we didn't. So it's very disappointing."

South Florida outrebounded Temple 37-28 and had a big edge outside the arc, where the Bulls hit 6 of 8 in the second half. Temple did outshoot South Florida overall (34 percent, 17 of 50), but the Bulls hit 14 of 23 in the second half.

"It was a great performance," said Bulls guard Anthony Collins, who had 14 points in the second half along with all five of his assists. "It was a great performance we played because we couldn't make a shot in that first half. To be down only four points like coach is saying and make three shots the whole 20 minutes was incredible."

Maybe it was fatigue from playing 48 hours earlier combined with travel to Nashville for South Florida (22-13). The opening minutes were so ugly -- with both teams racing up and down the floor missing shots -- that Victor Rudd Jr. put up his hand and motioned at his teammates to slow down just a bit after he stole the ball back. Rudd wound up scoring 17 points.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy said the Owls had an ugly start and missed their chance to have a bigger lead.

"We didn't get that done," he said. "Again ... I don't think it was anything special that South Florida does, they just do a great job of keeping you in front and battling all the time. We didn't respond like we needed to."

The Bulls couldn't have missed more shots in the first half if they tried, going nearly 16 minutes without a field goal and missing 22 straight.

Somehow, they flipped a switch at halftime, hitting six of their first seven. Hugh Robertson tied it at 19 with a big dunk in the first minute, and Wyatt answered with a jumper with 17:56 remaining. That was Temple's own first field goal since T.J. DiLeo's layup with 6:34 left in the first half.

Collins scored on a layup then Shaun Noriega hit a long 3-pointer to give South Florida its first lead, 24-21 with 16:54 to go.

Collins, Rudd and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick all agreed that the biggest help came from focusing on defense and spreading out the Owls so they could attack the basket.

The Bulls hit nine of their first 11 to start the second half, part of a 31-6 stretch in rallying from their largest deficit at 19-8. They finished the spurt in style, too. Fitzpatrick hit a bucket and then connected on consecutive 3-pointers. Rudd gave South Florida its biggest lead with a third straight 3-pointer, putting the Bulls up 39-25 with 12:03 left.

Temple, which averaged 76.1 points during the season, came back with 11 straight points capped by a 3-pointer from Wyatt with 5:44 left. Rudd answered with a 3 then Wyatt was called for a technical after he complained that no foul was called when he drove to the basket and missed.

Rudd hit his fourth 3-pointer with 2:34 to go to push the lead back to 48-38, and the Bulls finished off their second straight NCAA win.

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