More than 10,000 fans packed the Liacouras Center about four weeks ago for an energetic and competitive Atlantic Ten Conference matchup between the Owls and their Big 5 rival, Saint Joseph’s.
With 17 seconds remaining and Temple clinging to a two-point lead, Mark Tyndale stepped up to the free-throw line. The senior guard, who scored the Owls’ final 10 points of the game, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw attempt which allowed the Hawks a chance to tie or take the lead. St. Joe’s senior Pat Calathes then drained a wide open three pointer to give the Hawks’ a one-point advantage with 3.9 seconds left in regulation.
Tyndale had another chance to play hero – but his last-second layup was blocked by junior Ahmad Nivins as time expired and St. Joe’s escaped with a 68-67 victory.
“I let my team down by missing that free throw,” Tyndale said after the game.
When the calendars turn to March, Tyndale said everyone in the Temple community will have a big circle on the second day of the month.
“I think everybody marked that on their calendar – every Temple fan, every Temple student, us as athletes,” he said. “St. Joe’s is going to be a big game for us.”
The Owls (14-12, 7-5 A-10) get their chance at revenge when they face the Hawks (16-8, 7-4) at the Palestra Sunday. With four games remaining in the season, every contest is a must win for coach Fran Dunphy and the Owls.
“We’ve got four tough games left,” Dunphy said. “We’re trying to take it a week at a time. We can only control what we can do and that’s what we’re thinking about.”
For Tyndale, the thought had to be in his mind that if he converted both free throws, the Owls wouldn’t be thinking about revenge Sunday.
But Tyndale said that the loss was not personal.
“It’s never personal. I always just try to play basketball,” he said.
“Those guys are still playing well,” junior guard Dionte Christmas said about the Hawks.
Christmas also was quick to add, along with Dunphy and Tyndale, that the Owls have a game before Sunday. There is more unfinished business to be had with another A-10 foe, he said.
On Wednesday night, Temple will host Charlotte, who held off a furious second-half comeback in a 60-58 win over the visiting Owls in January.
“We’ll do a whole lot of work on Charlotte and hope we can play our best game,” Dunphy said.
Exactly two weeks before the St. Joe’s loss, the Owls did not play their best basketball against the 49ers.
Temple erased a 17-point first-half deficit to take a three point lead with two minutes remaining in the second half. However, 49ers senior guard Leemire Goldwire scored eight points in the final 1:21 to give Charlotte (15-11, 6-6 A-10) the win.
“Charlotte will be a tough opponent for us on Wednesday,” Dunphy said. “Goldwire is one of the leading scorers in the league, so he’s first and foremost.”
Goldwire, the fourth leading scorer in the A-10, averages 19.2 points per game.
“We can’t look past Charlotte at all,” said Christmas, who, at 20.2 points per game, is second in the conference in scoring. “Those guys are playing well. They did put a little beating on us when we went up there, so we can’t look past those guys.”
With a tough 78-76 loss to Fordham Saturday afternoon, the Owls chances for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament most likely passed them by. The only realistic chance for the Owls to make the field of 64 teams is to win the A-10 Tournament. At 7-5 in the conference, the Owls are in a three-way tie for third in the conference.
“We have no chance of going to the [NCAA] Tournament without winning the A-10 tournament,” junior center Sergio Olmos said after the Fordham loss.
“We’re just going to take it game by game, just like coach said,” Christmas added. “We can’t look past nobody and things like that. We can’t look ahead to the tournament right now. We just have to take it game by game right now.”
As Dunphy mentioned, the Owls will take things week by week. This week will have much importance because the Owls have two crucial conference battles against opponents who they lost to earlier in the season. But Dunphy said the Owls must play their best basketball in order to take both games this week. If not, look for the same results.
“This is our week. It’s going to be a struggle,” he said. “That’s how most games are played in this league at this stretch of the year.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.