Xavier Drops First Conference Game at Temple - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Xavier Drops First Conference Game at Temple

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Each of the last two seasons, Temple needed

to win the Atlantic 10 tournament championship game to know it had

earned a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The Owls aren't waiting until mid-March this year to show what

they can do.

Ryan Brooks scored 22 points, Lavoy Allen had 16 and No. 16

Temple beat Xavier 77-72 on Wednesday night in a matchup of

Atlantic 10 unbeatens.

The Owls (16-3, 4-0 Atlantic 10) have won five straight and 12

of 13, and are off to their best start since they also opened the

1993-94 season 16-3. Juan Fernandez scored 15 points and had seven

assists for Temple, which knocked off the three-time defending

league champions.

"This was a big win for us, a big opportunity to kind of go out

there and gain first place in the league," Brooks said. "We kind

of showed people what we're continuing to do along the season."

At this rate, the Owls won't need to win the A-10 title game to

secure a spot in the field of 65. The tournament is still two

months away and plenty could happen - a key injury, overconfidence

- that could derail this sensational season.

For now, the Owls are enjoying their time atop the standings.

"I don't think it's too early because it gives you that

confidence, it gives you that edge," Brooks said.

Brooks, Fernandez and Allen have all helped the Owls climb the

national rankings and enjoy their best season in 16 years. But it's

defense where Temple has carved an identity. The Owls ranked third

nationally in defense (allowing 55.5 points per game) entering the

game and held a Musketeers offense that scored in the 50s only once

this season below that number until late.

The Musketeers got hot late in the final two minutes and made

the Owls sweat out this victory.

Brad Redford hit two clutch 3-pointers - he was left open in the

corner on the second one - that sliced the deficit to 71-68 with

23.4 seconds left.

Brooks, Temple's newly minted 1,000-point scorer, calmly made

two free throws for a 73-70 lead. Brooks, who nearly fumbled away

the ball before he was fouled on a press, hit two more and the Owls

could finally relax in a game between the league's top teams.

"I want to be the one shooting the free throws at the end to

give my team the 'W,"' Brooks said.

Jordan Crawford scored 18 points, Jason Love had 16 and Terrell

Holloway 13 for Xavier (12-6, 4-1). The Musketeers snapped a

four-game winning streak.

"I don't think there are going to be too many teams that are

going to sneak in here and get one," Xavier coach Chris Mack said.

Each time Temple seemed on the brink of building a comfortable

lead, Xavier inched its way closer toward a comeback. Crawford

finally put the Musketeers ahead for the first time since early in

the first half on a 3-pointer that made it 48-47.

With Dante Jackson yelling "Movement! Movement!" before an

inbounds pass, the Musketeers listened, working the ball around and

inside to Love - who was whistled for an offensive foul.

Fernandez came right down and drilled a wide-open 3 from the top

of the arc, and Brooks' jumper over the outstretched arms of two

defenders the next time down made it 52-48.

Mark Lyons again kept the Owls from stretching the lead to

double digits after his 3 made it 58-53. Crawford's 3 pulled Xavier

to 65-60.

The Musketeers never let Temple pull too far ahead, but they

never got rolling on a serious enough run to keep their perfect

conference mark.

The Owls were 13 for 19 from the floor in the second half and

finished at 59 percent for their highest shooting percentage this

season.

"We had something to do with that, not contesting as well as we

needed to," Mack said. "We couldn't get the stops we needed to in

order to win the game."

The Owls made their first four 3-pointers and shot 53 percent in

the first half to lead 39-34 at the break. Love, a Philadelphia

native, went 5 for 5 for 11 points in the half to keep the

Musketeers within striking distance.

Temple had used the 3-pointer with great success in big wins

this season. This time, Brooks made smart drives to the basket and

Fernandez hit mid-range jumpers to complement 5-for-10 shooting on

3s by the Owls.

"Xavier has been the best team in the league for a number of

years now," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "It looks like they're

going to be very good for a long period of time."

The Owls want to be the best team in the league this year - and

right now they are.

 

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