Coming off a one-point win Sunday over its Big 5 rival, Saint Joseph’s, the last thing the men’s basketball team needs is a non-game related distraction, even if it may be a positive one.
The Owls (16-12 overall), who at 9-5 are now the sole inhabitants of second place in the ever-competitive Atlantic Ten Conference standings, will have to deal with a slight interruption in the form of Senior Night before they host Duquesne (16-11, 6-8 A-10) in their final regular season home contest at the Liacouras Center this season.
Seniors Mark Tyndale, Chris Clark and Orlando Miller, a 6-foot-6 forward who has played sparingly in his four seasons at Temple, will step onto the court at the Liacouras Center for the last time in their collegiate careers.
“I remember my first day walking on campus and now I’m playing my last game at the Liacouras Center,” said Tyndale, who leads the Owls in rebounding, assists and steals and is second on the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game. “I was there when the Liacouras Center first opened [in 1997] and my final game there is going to be a very emotional night for me.”
Through Monday, Tyndale, a starter throughout the majority of his career, was 11th among Temple’s all-time point leaders with 1,642 points. He needs nine points to pass Aaron McKie and Mike Vreeswk for ninth on the list. The 6-4 Simon Gratz product also ranks 11th in assists, 13th in rebounding and 10th in steals in the program’s other all-time categories.
Clark, a 5-foot-8 Saint Joseph’s Prep graduate who has come off the bench for all but three games in his career, is averaging 5.9 points in 21.8 minutes per game — both career highs for the senior.
“It’s been a great four years for me at Temple,” Clark said. “I learned a lot my first two years under [former Temple] coach [John] Chaney, who was a great mentor and a great coach. I learned a lot under coach Dunphy. I have no regrets.”
Senior Night is also a tough experience for coaches, Dunphy said.
“To be honest with you, it’s probably my least favorite day of the year,” the second-year coach said. “It’s an emotional night. I’m not real big on it … But the nice thing is we won’t be saying goodbye to those guys for a while and they will always be a part of your family, which is even better.”
The slumping Dukes will attempt to crash the seniors’ party.
Tied for 10th place in the A-10, Duquesne is on a four-game losing streak. The Dukes are led by junior Shawn James, who is averaging a team-high 13.5 points per game. The 6-10 center leads the A-10 in field goal percentage, shooting 55 percent, and blocks, sending back 4.2 shots per game.
After Duquesne, the Owls will face La Salle at the Tom Gola Arena Saturday at 4 p.m.
For Temple, a pair of victories would give the Owls their first second place finish in the A-10 since the league eliminated the east and west divisions and became a 14-team conference at the start of the 2005-2006 season.
“It’s a big accomplishment. There are a lot of tough teams in the Atlantic 10,” Clark said after the Owls defeated St. Joe’s Sunday. “We fought to be in this position and it just feels great. We have two tough [upcoming] games and I think if we drop these two, we might drop to like eighth or ninth place. So it’s a big two games for us.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.