John Chaney was still bitter.
While fans of both Temple and Villanova seemed energized by the midnight tip-off for each school’s respective season, Chaney said it never should have happened this way. And if the 72-year old coach had his druthers he would have opted to never play Villanova again.
For the second year in a row the Owls lost their home opener in a dispirited fashion, 73-48, to the shorthanded Wildcats early this morning in front of a sellout crowd of 10, 206 at the Liacouras Center. Led by sophomore guards Randy Foye and Allan Ray with 20 points apiece, the Wildcats never trailed in the game.
Chaney gave credit to the Wildcats’ effort, but when asked about the situation of Temple acquiescing to the Wildcats scheduling conflict, he made his feelings known.
“It’s something I don’t want to talk about,” he said. “It’s something I didn’t like. I didn’t like it for a lot of reasons. If it was up to me, we’d never play them. Period. Only [Bill] Bradshaw was the one who convinced me to do it, but I was ready to tear this thing up.”
Last March, 12 ‘Nova players on the basketball team were suspended by the NCAA for violating the use of a phone access code. Players who ran up bills over $100 were punished. ‘Nova had already scheduled to play Temple on Nov. 21, but tried to cancel the game in exchange for playing a pair of Division III teams to offset the loss of suspended players.
Chaney railed at the idea of ‘Nova backing out the game. So Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw proposed a midnight start in order to appease both sides.
Chaney was firm on his stance.
“Never play them again,” he said. “My integrity is something very important to me and I just thought it was bad. You should take a strong look at it, as far as I’m concerned if it wasn’t for Bradshaw, John Chaney would never play them again. Ever.”
As it turned out ‘Nova coach Jay Wright by NCAA rules was permitted to use a suspended player, sophomore forward Curtis Sumpter. Wright was notified Wednesday night that despite the penalty levied on his program, ‘Nova was entitled to dress at least two forwards. The only other available big man was freshman forward Will Sheridan.
“We had to play Sumpter, it was an NCAA mandate,” Wright said. “He didn’t practice all week and he was a big help. Sumpter finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.”
The way Temple came out, it probably wouldn’t have mattered had Sumpter played or not. Playing uninspired and without the services of injured sophomore center Keith Butler, the Owls could not keep pace with the Wildcats.
Despite the midnight start the fans were boisterous. Almost too much so. Less than three minutes into the game a bottle was thrown from the ‘Nova section. The game was stopped for almost five minutes as Chaney asked Wright to tell his fans to keep from tossing anything else on the court.
“I did it because he [Chaney] asked me to,” Wright said. “He said it came from our section, I didn’t even see it. If any coach asks me that, I’ll do it.”
The Wildcats opened the game hitting four three-pointers jumping on top quickly 18-8 in the first nine minutes. ‘Nova appeared on top of their game, while the Owls were stuck in neutral.
With 2:21 left in the first half Owls senior guard David Hawkins brought the crowd to his feet when it appeared he cleanly blocked Ray on a dunk, but officials called a foul. Hawkins would be frustrated all game long with the officiating. ‘Nova attempted 18 free throws to Temple’s two.
“Yeah, they missed a lot of calls,” Hawkins said of the referees and finished with 16 points on 6-for-21 shooting. “But that wasn’t the reason we lost the game there’s no doubt about that.”
In the second half things continued to fall apart for the Owls as ‘Nova torched the matchup zone with considerable ease. ‘Nova shot 73 percent in the second half, taking advantage of Butler’s absence in the middle. For the Owls they shot a horrible 27 percent from the field.
Foye essentially put the game away after dropping back-to-back threes with freshman guard Dustin Salisbery closely guarding him. With 11:16 left the Wildcats were in control 54-34.
The Owls attempted to mount a comeback. With just over six minutes left Salisbery hit a three to close the gap to 14. But on the Owls next six possessions they would miss two lay ups, throw up two air balls, misfire a wide-open three and then turn the ball over. ‘Nova ended the game on a 14-3 run.
“I don’t know exactly what it was,” Hawkins said. “We just didn’t come out and establish a flow. We came out shooting, instead of executing the offense.”
Chaney said the lack of an inside presence hurt his squad severely from getting open shots on the perimeter. Sophomore guard Mardy Collins had 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting and Salisbery was 5-for-14 with 13 points.
Freshman guard Mario Taybron had an inauspicious debut. In 14 minutes of play he missed all five shots and committed four turnovers.
The Owls face Illinois Nov. 29 at the Palestra and Chaney expressed an urgency for Butler’s return.
“He says he has a bone bruise and that’s a problem for him,” Chaney said. “So I’m hoping he can play against Illinois, which is a pretty big team. Hopefully these guys will grow up by January.”