BRONX, NY – Dionte Christmas showed spurts of finally kicking his recent shooting slump.
In doing so, the sophomore guard scored a team-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.
But Fordham’s inside-out combo of Bryant Dunston and Marcus Stout proved too much for Temple. The duo combined for 47 points as the Owls fell, 80-73, at Rose Hill Gym Saturday.
The Owls finished the season 12-18 overall and 6-10 in the Atlantic Ten Conference, their worst record since joining the conference in the 1982-83 season. They’ll enter the A-10 tournament Wednesday as either the 10th or 11th seed.
“All you ever ask for in life is a chance, and we have a chance,” Dunphy said.
The Rams improved to 18-11 overall and 10-6 in the A-10. Saturday’s victory marked the first time they finished with double-digit wins in the conference.
Stout, a junior guard, led all scorers with 27 points. He shot 10-for-13 from the field, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Dunston finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. The junior forward has notched a double-double in four of the last five games.
“Even when he wasn’t scoring he was wearing us down,” Dunphy said of Dunston. “He posts so hard that you have to work extra duty just to limit how many touches he gets. He’s a terrific player, because of how hard he works at the game.”
For the Owls, Mark Tyndale notched 19 points and Dustin Salisbery chipped in with 13 points. Christmas, who’ll likely win the league’s scoring title, only shot 8-of-22 from the field, but said he felt more confident than he has in the last few games.
“I think this game right here got my confidence back,” Christmas said. “The last couple of games my confidence was real low. The coaches told me the last few games and practices that they had a lot of confidence in me. So, I came out today with some confidence. I came out shooting the ball well.”
Christmas was at his best near the end of the first half and the beginning of the second.
So were the Owls.
With 3:05 remaining before the break, Christmas drained a three-pointer to pull the Owls within 27-26. Two minutes later Christmas made a layup, but got fouled. He hit his free throw as the Owls took their first lead of the game, at 32-30.
Following the break, Christmas gave the Owls the lead on two different occasions within the first two minutes. The first came on a layup. The second was a three-pointer following two straight baskets by Dunston. It gave the Owls a 37-35 advantage.
About two minutes later Christmas again hit a three-pointer – his fifth straight field goal – tying the game at 40-40 with 16:07 to play.
From there, both Christmas and the Owls slowly began to fade.
The Owls scored just one field goal in the next five minutes, as the Rams built a 54-45 lead.
A three-pointer by Dion Dacons and a layup by Mark Tyndale quickly pulled the Owls within four, at 54-50, but that was as close as they’d come.
As the clock ticked by the three minute mark, the Rams had built a game-high 16 point lead, at 74-58.
During that stretch, Christmas missed each of his four shots, including three treys. He did not score until 2:38 was left on the clock.
On the night, he shot just 6-of-15 from three-point range.
“He shot a lot of threes,” Dunphy said. “Six-for-15 is a lot of threes. Probably, one or two of them, we could have made an extra pass. But I think he did a pretty good job and played hard.”
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.