DENVER – Seated between the vaunted “one-two punch” of Mark Tyndale and Dionte Christmas, senior reserve and team co-captain Chris Clark received most of the spotlight at Temple’s pre-NCAA Tournament press conference Wednesday.
In the last two weeks, Clark has proved just as valuable as Tyndale and Christmas with clutch performances in crucial games.
His teammates and coach Fran Dunphy credited him with leading the No. 12-seeded Owls into the NCAA Tournament where they will play No. 5 Michigan State in the Pepsi Center today at 12:30 p.m. in an opening round match-up.
“Without Chris Clark, I don’t think we’d be standing here right now,” Christmas said. “He’s been the backbone of this team. He’s hit a lot of big shots. He’s been the leader on-and-off the court.”
In the final four games of the season, Clark scored 14.2 points per game on 48 shooting, nearly doubling the 7.7 ppg he averaged for the season. He also shot 44 percent from the three-point line over the four-game period.
The 5-foot-8 guard played a career-high-tying 35 minutes in the Owls Atlantic Ten Conference Championship game win against Saint Joseph’s last Saturday. In that game, he only scored 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting, but he managed to make big plays for the Owls throughout the A-10 Tournament.
“If you said that there was a single catalyst that’s brought Temple along late in the season, I’d have to say that he’d be one and maybe, Mark Tyndale’s improved play 1-A,” Dunphy said.
Tyndale, a co-captain on the team, continued the praise for his fellow senior teammate.
“I think Chris is the captain of this team. I have the label also, but Chris is really the leader of this team and what he’s doing right now doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “He’s a great human being, he’s a great person and I think it just crosses over to the basketball court.”
Despite only starting three games in his career, Clark has carved out a niche for himself on the team as a reliable reserve, especially this season.
“I know my role,” Clark said. “My job is not to score. My job is to be a leader on-and-off the court … My job is a lot easier then what people think because you have great scorers and shooters around you. It’s easy to run an offense.”
Although he’s been on a hot streak as of late, Dunphy pointed to the Owls road win over Fordham on Jan. 31 as the start of Clark’s improved play.
Clark scored 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting against the Rams.
“He’s just kind of progressed from that point on,” Dunphy said.
And Clark has the respect of not only his teammates, but his coaches as well.
“The coaches value his opinion a lot,” he said. “Whatever Chris says, the coaches are going to listen to him.”
Temple is 31-25 all-time in NCAA Tournament play. The Owls have made 25 appearances in the Big Dance, including 17 straight trips between 1984-2001 under coach John Chaney … Michigan State defeated Temple, 69-62, in the Elite Eight in 2001. That was the Owls last NCAA Tournament game.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.
(Photo by Ron Davis)
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