Senior forward Lavoy Allen stepped up in lieu of team injuries.
When the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee looks at the men’s basketball team’s résumé, Saturday’s win over George Washington might not stick out to them.
Instead, defeating No. 9 Georgetown, Georgia and Maryland will highlight the team’s performance while close losses to Texas A&M and Villanova will also help the team.
Still, the win over the Colonials, due to the team’s comeback, the arena’s hostile environment and the Owls’ lack of frontcourt depth, might be the most impressive victory of the season for the Cherry and White.
The main reason for Temple’s comeback, along with its respectable performance against No. 1 Duke, was the play of senior forward Lavoy Allen.
Earlier this year, I wrote that Lavoy Allen needed to step up his performance in order to live up to expectations and, more importantly for this year’s squad, to have any shot in the NCAA tournament. Allen put together an impressive five-game stretch shortly after my column in which he averaged 12.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while the Owls won all five of their contests.
Then Allen sprained his ankle.
After giving a lackluster performance against Richmond in his first game back out of the way, Allen has been the best player on Temple’s team since. In three games since the win over the Spiders, Allen has averaged 16.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and two blocks per game on 59.5 percent shooting.
Allen has also discovered his outside shot, as he’s hit four three-pointers in the last two games. Before his sudden outburst, Allen had hit just one three-pointer this season.
Allen’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, it seems coaches are going out of their way to praise the 6-foot-9-inch senior.
Without Allen’s play, the Owls could have very well lost to the Colonials. With that win, the Owls showed their toughness en route to securing a first-round bye in the Atlantic Ten Tournament.
Allen’s offensive play, 19 points and 16 rebounds, was matched by his defensive intensity. George Washington senior center Joseph Katuka was held by Allen to just two points on 1-of-8 shooting.
“Lavoy Allen is my favorite player in this league,” George Washington coach Karl Hobbs said. “He’s so patient with everything he does … He never looks like he’s in a hurry, but he’s very quick to spots. At one point, he pretty much controlled and dominated [Temple wins’ over GWU] from a defensive standpoint and an offensive standpoint.”
“One of our assistants, Matt Langel, just mentioned to me as we were walking off the court ‘I don’t think he can play any better,’” coach Fran Dunphy added. “He was terrific today. That’s something that we’re kind of used to, but I think today was an exceptional game across the board for him.”
However, the recognition hasn’t been limited to the Atlantic Ten Conference. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski recently hyped up Allen’s ball-handling ability.
“Allen played a great game for them,” Krzyzewski said. “Our ball-screen defense in the first half, the normal way we play, the five-man isn’t usually as ball friendly as [Allen] is. I thought he really handled the ball screen well.”
Coach K probably knows what he’s talking about. With 894 wins, Krzyzewski is just nine wins away from becoming the all-time winningest coach in Division I history.
The praise isn’t unfounded. Allen recently surpassed John Baum for the program’s all-time rebounding record and became just the fifth Owl to swat 200 shots in the win over the Colonials.
When it’s all said and done, Allen will go down as one of the greatest basketball players to play for the Owls. The only thing tarnishing his career right now is a lack of success in the NCAA tournament.
If his play stays at its current level, that blemish may soon be gone.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.