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NASHVILLE, TN – Junior guard Khalif Wyatt scored a game-high 19 points, but 12th-seed South Florida held his two backcourt mates, seniors Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez to six points combined, in posting a 58-44 win over the fifth-seed Temple Owls at Bridgestone Arena in the final game of the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Owls end their season with a 24-8 record while the Bulls (22-13) advance to take on 13th-seed Ohio, which bested #4-seed Michigan, 65-60.
It was a tale of two halves, as the Owls stymied the Bulls over the opening 20 minutes, holding USF to 3-27 from the field (11.1%), including a stretch of nearly 16 minutes with zero field goals. Temple, however, could only muster a 19-15 lead at the break.
The second half saw USF blister the nets at the start, hitting seven of their first nine shots, to take a 30-23 lead over the first five-plus minutes. After Wyatt converted two throws, the Bulls drained three straight three-pointers to make it 39-25. For the period, USF connected on 14-of-23 from the field (60.9%) and six-of-eight from long range.
"I thought South Florida did a terrific job in the second half, made shots when they needed to," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "We didn't get it done. We didn't do a good enough job and turned it a few too many times at critical points, and again they stepped up and made the shots when they had to."
Trailing 41-27, the Owls came to life, scoring nine straight points over a five-minute stretch to cut the deficit to three on a Moore three-pointer with 5:45 remaining.
The Owls defense then forced Victor Rudd, Jr. (17 points) into a long three-pointer with the shot clock winding down, but the sophomore forward banked it in for a back-breaking basket to push the margin to six, 44-38. It was one of his four treys (six attempts) on the evening.
The teams traded empty possessions before Wyatt was called for a technical foul arguing a no-call on his missed lay-up. Shaun Noriega made one free throw, and then Rudd, Jr. drained a three a minute later to push the margin back to double-digits at 48-38 with 2:11 remaining.
South Florida was able to close out the game at the foul line, making all eight of its attempts over the final two minutes and change.
Moore (5 points) and Fernandez (1 point) struggled in their final games as Owls, putting a tough end on brilliant careers. Micheal Eric, who also wore a Temple uniform for the last time, turned in a solid effort with seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks over 36 minutes.
Junior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson joined Wyatt in double-figures with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Freshman point guard Anthony Collins matched Rudd, Jr. with 17 points (5 assists) to lead South Florida.
The loss is the second straight for Temple, giving the Owls consecutive losses for the first time since February 28, 2009. Temple had put together a string of 105 games without losing back-to-back matchups. Temple had the second-longest streak in the nation after Duke fell earlier Friday.