What was more painful? Watching Antywane Robinson’s left ankle buckle underneath his 210-pound frame or the heartbreaking fashion in which Temple lost to Arizona State?
Through the first 37 minutes of the game, Temple looked as if it was going to win despite Robinson’s injury and constant foul trouble. But the Owls fell victim to a late run by the Sun Devils, losing 70-66 at American West Arena in Phoenix Tuesday night.
After struggling to score all game against Temple, the Sun Devils used a 15-4 run over the final four minutes of the game to pull out the win. Arizona State was led by sophomore forward Ike Diogu’s 23 points, on 7-for-10 shooting. As a team the Sun Devils shot 29 of 36 from the free throw line.
Injuries are something Temple cannot afford and Robinson’s absence changed the dynamic of the game. Center Keith Bulter, Nehemiah Ingram and David Hawkins’ early foul trouble didn’t help matters. Hawkins, who picked up two early fouls, was limited to five minutes of action in the first half.
Just 70 seconds into the game, Robinson scored the game’s first four points but didn’t return after spraining his left ankle. Through all of the obstacles the Owls managed to control the tempo and go into the half up by 34-29. Sophomore guard Mardy Collins carried the load and scored 14 of his 19 points in the first half.
With Hawkins back in the lineup Temple’s lead stretched to nine after the senior dropped in a 3-pointer with 12 minutes left in the game. But Ingram fouled out only four minutes into the second half, and Butler and freshman forward Dion Dacons fouled out in the last five minutes of play.
Arizona State guard Steve Moore completed a rare four-point play just under the four-minute mark. Then Diogu tied the game on a three-point play. With 33 seconds left, Moore was wide open and drained an 18-footer to give the Sun Devils their first lead of the game, 68-66.
The Owls return home this Saturday to face Penn State and then play Monday against South Carolina.
On a positive note
The sense of urgency seemed to increase exponentially for the Owls after being dealt their third straight loss of the season against Rutgers Dec. 3. That’s why avoiding the fourth straight loss was so critical.
Temple beat Drexel at The Palestra 58-47 in the same fashion they’ve been winning for the past 21 years: grinding it out on the defensive end.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but it feels good to finally get a win so we don’t start off the way we did last year,” said Hawkins, who is averaging 20.6 points a game.
Temple coach John Chaney’s patience was running thin with the inability of his big men to rebound effectively. Against Rutgers Chaney limited Robinson’s time on the court, as he was held to 13 minutes, one rebound, and just one shot.
The Owls were struggling to beat opponents on the boards, despite neutralizing players in the post.
“When we got beat so bad on the boards, I took that personally, myself, even though I didn’t play that much,” Robinson said. “If I had gotten on the boards a little bit more, I’d have played a lot more.”
Another reason for the inadequate rebounding has been Butler, who has yet to put together a complete game.
In the win over Drexel he had six points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots and sank four free throws in the waning moments of the game. Against Rutgers he scored eight points in the first half, but managed just one shot in the second.
“One of the things that we try and do is to nurture and develop and get the ball into Keith early,” Chaney said. “But when he moves too fast inside and he doesn’t see the options, like young people do, then we lose confidence in him.”
Chaney wants to see Butler kick the ball back out to the guards when he has few options so the offense can reset.
Not much of a break
While most students get to enjoy a comfortable respite from classes and term papers during winter break, the men’s basketball team will continue on with their schedule and endure longer practices. If finals week wasn’t tough enough, [for student-athletes] it can prove to be even more difficult.
“It’s real hard,” Robinson said. “You miss like the most important things, like study guides and teachers going over finals, so you got to be real, real focused before you leave and then when you come back it might be that day you got a final.”
Once the semester officially ends on Dec. 20, Chaney is not bound by NCAA regulations, affording him the flexibility to practice as much as possible.
Last year, he held practices up to five hours a day. The inordinate hours of practice caused Hawkins lingering soreness in his feet, but he went through the rest of the season without missing a game.
Temple will play six games over winter break with the first four on the road.
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.