Given the value of an assist in basketball, it is ironic that a perfectly delivered pass from a player to a teammate that leads to a bucket is depreciated by calling it a “dime.”
If the decision were left to coaches to come up with a slang term they would likely have chosen something else but, then again, dropping benjamins doesn’t exactly have the same alliterative ring to it.
(Credit: Joseph Laubach)
A case in point could be the disparity in the back-to-back efforts from Temple point guard Khalif Wyatt. Coach Fran Dunphy was as impressed with the senior during a 75-57 win over Bowling Green as he was with Wyatt’s 33-point effort in an upset over then-No. 3 Syracuse.
Despite scoring only seven points during the Owls final game of 2012, the difference, in Dunphy’s eyes, was the eight assists Wyatt dished out against the Falcons.
“I said it at the end of the first half when the coaches were getting together that we are doing a good job of moving the basketball,” Dunphy said. “While Khalif didn’t score he was doing a great job of making plays and that’s what we need him to do. Some days he’s not going to be a scorer, he is going to be a playmaker. I like him playmaking — he’s pretty good.”
The Norristown, Pa. native knows he is not going to fill it up every night like he did while reaching a career-high in points against the Orange at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 22.
“I feel out each game differently, some games they don’t need me to score,” Wyatt said. “I’m just seeing what the team needs at the time. I think today we needed somebody to get some guys some shots in the right spots. I think we did a good job of sharing the ball today.”
The Owls did indeed share the ball remarkably well as assists were credited on all but four baskets against Bowling Green. The effort moved Temple into the top 30 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (16th at 1.37) and assist percentage (29th at 62.8).
“We were efficient with our offensive game plan,” said Dunphy. “23 assists on 27 baskets is pretty extraordinary.”
(Credit: Keith Gary)
Another veteran point guard, Lafayette co-captain Tony Johnson knows not only the value of the assist, but the importance of protecting the rock.
“As a point guard, my job is to take care of the ball,” said Johnson, who had an impressive 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio a year ago as a junior. “If people see me throwing the ball everywhere they think they can too.”
“It is a big staple of our offense to take care of the ball. If we are not doing that, then we are going to be struggling a little bit.”
The Leopards have not consistently delivered in the ball protection department, however.
In back-to-back games to end the month of November, the Leopards turned the ball over 27 times in a disappointing 65-60 loss at Monmouth and then rebounded with only 10 turnovers in a 63-60 upset of Delaware.
“When you think about some of the close losses we had — like Monmouth where we had twenty-something turnovers and we are still in the game with 3-4 minutes left,” said Johnson. “If we cut those in half then you have another 15 shots or so and you are going to blow out that team like we probably should have.”
As the out of conference schedule winds down, both Temple and Lafayette will turn their attention to league play in the coming weeks. The Owls have one more order of business before A-10 action starts and that is a Jan. 6 date with Kansas at legendary Allen Fieldhouse.
Temple joined the Jayhawks as one of only six schools in NCAA history with 1,800 wins following the victory over Bowling Green.
“They are just a wonderful basketball program,” Dunphy said. “I have had the opportunity to go there twice and it is just a fabulous experience. Tremendous basketball atmosphere — just as it was when we went to Madison Square Garden — and we need to be ready to go.”
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