The men’s basketball team’s NCAA Tournament run ended against SDSU.
TUCSON, Ariz. – After the men’s basketball team lost, 71-64, in double overtime to San Diego State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, coach Fran Dunphy said he would rather not remember the game.
“I’m not sure if I’ll watch the film. I haven’t watched too many last games. Maybe next year I’ll watch it,” Dunphy said. “I don’t think I want to re-visit it that soon after the game.”
Dunphy’s counterpart, Aztecs coach Steve Fisher, could empathize as someone who has been in his spot numerous times during his 23-year head coaching career.
“When you play a game like this and lose, it’s so disastrous for a while mentally that you can’t comprehend it unless you are there – I know what Fran is going through, along with his team,” Fisher said. “These are games that are hard. They’re hard for both sides. We ran off the floor all smiles, and they ran off the floor with tears in their eyes. That’s the nature of what we do.”
What Dunphy said he would remember and what he chose to talk to his team about, is the career of senior forward Lavoy Allen, whom Dunphy has said numerous times that the team would not have the success it has had without Allen.
“We talked about how we will celebrate Lavoy Allen’s career, which has been just remarkable, in all honesty. He has pretty much dragged all of us with him and four-straight years of going to NCAA tournaments and having just a remarkable run for us,” Dunphy said. “We’re going to miss him greatly. He’s been a special player and we will talk about that for a long time to come.”
Allen finishes his career as Temple’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,158 career rebounds and recorded 41 career double-doubles, Allen would have preferred to end his career with a deeper run in the tournament.
“I didn’t really play well the two games we played here,” Allen said. “I wanted to perform better for my team and hopefully come out with a victory. It’s been a great four years. I’ve made a lot of friends. Hopefully our friendships last longer than my basketball career, and I’m going to miss it. [I’ll] miss putting on this Temple jersey.”
The men’s basketball team’s run in Tucson, Ariz., began on March 16 with a second-round matchup against No. 10 seed Penn State. The play of junior guard Juan Fernandez and redshirt-junior guard Ramone Moore carried the team to a 66-64 win against the Nittany Lions with 23 points each, but it was the final two points from Fernandez that most will remember from the game.
The Owls had the ball coming out of a timeout with 11.4 seconds left in regulation and the score tied, 64-64. The team quickly came to a consensus about what it should do.
“When we called timeout, we were discussing what to run, and [sophomore guard] Khalif Wyatt, whom I listen to all the time, he’s got sage advice for me often, said ‘I think we need to just put it in Juan’s hands. Then if he is not ready to do it, Juan will give it to Ramone, and that’s how we’ll win this game,’” Dunphy said.
“Juan’s our leader. I mean, the ball’s in his hands most of the game, so we trust Juan to make smart decisions down the stretch,” Wyatt added.
The ball found itself into Fernandez’s hands and he made a contested jump shot to put the Owls into the second round with just 0.4 seconds left on the clock.
“Coach just said [the play] was a pick-and-roll up top with Lavoy, then take what they gave us,” Fernandez said. “I was thinking about shooting a jump shot, but I killed my dribble and Frazier was right there. I think for some reason he jumped over to my right, and that gave me the space to go left, and I made that jumper.”
“Usually you don’t practice those kind of shots,” he added.
On Saturday, the Owls struggled against an athletic Atzecs out of the gate, but by preventing them from scoring for nearly four minutes, the Owls cut the deficit to 36-31 at halftime. The defense allowed the Owls to get back in the game. Allen, who had his 41st and final double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, pushed the team with his defense.
Moore and Fernandez chipped in 17 and 14 points, respectively, over the course of the game.
Regulation would end with a 54-54 tie, and for a while, the Owls had the lead in the first overtime, but the Aztecs wouldn’t go away and a free throw from senior forward Malcolm Thomas would force a second overtime, where the Aztecs finally pushed away by outscoring the Owls, 10-3.
“I’m so proud of our guys and how they hung in there. We were struggling mightily at one stretch and somehow found a way to get it back and have an opportunity to win the game,” Dunphy said. “Obviously, in the second overtime we didn’t do a couple things that we needed to do.”
The Owls finish the year 26-8, but the team would have liked to have added a few more wins and after the grueling double-overtime affair, still had the energy for a few more rounds.
“My legs are feeling all right. I could play a couple more overtimes, but … our shots were short,” Allen said.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.