The frustration was there.
The men’s basketball team had led then-No. 18 Maryland Saturday for much of the first half, but things were turning sour.
With eight minutes to go, the Owls’ comfortable two-possession lead had slipped away. They started committing fouls in bunches. Then they went cold from the free throw line.
Following one missed foul shot, senior Mardy Collins kept his arms in the air, at his point of release.
At game’s end, Collins had his arms elevated skyward for another reason. He was high-fiving sophomore teammate Mark Tyndale. The backcourt pair were soon joined by the throngs of students who rushed the court in celebration of the Owls’ 91-85 win at the Liacouras Center.
The win was the Owls’ second against a top 25 team this season. They beat then-ranked Alabama, 68-58, on Dec. 10. Collins was a freshman during the 2002-03 season, when the Owls beat Indiana and Xavier, the last time they defeated two ranked opponents in the same season.
Collins, who yesterday was named ESPN.com’s Player of the Week, finished with 25 points and a career-high 12 assists. Collins said Saturday’s win was “the biggest win I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Collins’ coach slightly disagreed.
“[Beating] Alabama was pretty good, and South Carolina,” Owls coach John Chaney said of his team’s wins earlier this season.
“But we played so ugly [Saturday.] We used to win ugly games. That’s one thing I used to be very proud of. If the game got ugly, I knew we had it. Now when the game gets ugly, I know the other team’s got it.”
This one didn’t meet the definition of ugly, but the 10,025 in attendance were treated to a back-and-forth affair. The Terrapins and the Owls exchanged leads with almost every second-half bucket.
Travis Garrison’s shot put the Terps ahead, 67-64, with 6:17 to play. It didn’t look good for the Owls, who had shelved sophomore center Wayne Marshall and senior forward Antywane Robinson with three fouls each.
Both Marshall and Robinson returned moments later to help the Owls seal the game. They held the Terps, who had hit four of their five previous shots, without a field goal for five minutes.
The Owls outscored the Terps, 17-2, en route to the win. Temple, which has struggled from the free throw line, was near perfect in the game’s final minute. The Owls hit 11-of-16 attempts, extending their lead.
After scoring only 34 points at Massachusetts on Jan. 22, the Owls have scored an average of 86 points in their last two games. Tyndale, whose 14 points and 10 rebounds gave him his first career double-double, had no explanation for the recent offensive spurt.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said postgame in the Owls’ locker room. “When we win, we take every game like they [are] Maryland. When we don’t, we end up losing to mediocre teams.”
Early on, the Owls (11-7) were defenseless against Maryland’s Mike Jones, who hit five of his first six three-point attempts. Jones’ outside shooting gave him 15 points in the game’s first five minutes. It also gave the Owls their largest deficit (19-13) of the game.
Like their lengthy five-minute, second-half stretch without a field goal, the Terps (14-5) went on a similar run in the first half. Maryland’s Parrish Brown hit a mid-range jumper that ended a seven-minute dry spell. By then, the Owls had staked a two-point lead they would hold into halftime.
A Philadelphia native, Tyndale said he regularly attended Temple games that were sellouts during his youth. In front of the biggest home crowd in his career, Tyndale said he was overwhelmed.
“[It was] the first time I ever played in front of 10,000, and I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “It was amazing. But in the end, we didn’t win it for them. We won it for us.”
Before taking over Maryland’s head coaching position in 1989, Gary Williams had roamed the sidelines at three other colleges. But Williams’ time on the high school circuit predates his collegiate coaching accomplishments. A Collingswood, N.J., native, Williams once coached at Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, N.J., the alma mater of current Temple reserve Semaj Inge.
TOP 25 UPDATE
The Owls will have an opportunity next month to score their third win against a nationally ranked opponent, when they play No. 2 Duke at the Wachovia Center. During Mike Krzyzewski’s 25-year career with Duke, the Owls are 1-7 against the Blue Devils. The lone win in that stretch came in 1995-96, when Temple beat Duke in a one-point game.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.