Juniors Dionte Christmas and Sergio Olmos won’t feel the full impact of what Mark Tyndale, Chris Clark and Orlando Miller felt Wednesday night until next March.
While that trio of seniors had to cope with the emotions of participating in their final game at the Liacouras Center, Christmas and Olmos, both distraction-free, set career-highs as Temple defeated visiting Duquesne, 90-85, on Senior Night.
Christmas led the Owls, exploding for a career-high 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting. The 6-5 guard nailed four of his 11 three-point attempts and hit all nine of his free throws. Olmos also scored a personal-best 16 points, tying his previous career-high of 11 by halftime, while Tyndale, the most celebrated of the three seniors, added 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
With one regular season game remaining, Temple (17-12, 10-5 Atlantic Ten Conference) has clinched a first-round bye — which is given to the top four teams in the conference — in next week’s A-10 Tournament in Atlantic City, N.J. The second-place Owls hold a one game advantage over third-place Massachusetts (20-9, 9-6 Atlantic Ten Conference) and Richmond (16-12, 9-6) in the A-10 standings.
“This league is real tough so to go to Atlantic City with a bye means a lot,” Christmas said.
In a game where both teams shot over 50 percent, Christmas helped Temple keep Duquesne at arm’s length after the Dukes (16-12, 6-9) tied the contest and remained within striking distance after trailing by as much as 14 points in the second half. He scored 23 points after intermission, 16 of which came off of four three-pointers.
“It was just one of those nights,” Christmas said. “I was just hitting a lot of shots and Coach was doing a good job of calling plays and getting me shots.”
With 12 minutes, eight seconds remaining, Christmas hit three consecutive three-pointers to give Temple a 62-52 advantage. Duquesne answered with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 62 with about 10 minutes left, but the Dukes never took the lead from that point on.
Playing without injured big man junior Shawn James, the Dukes were paced by senior guard Reggie Jackson’s 25 points and graduate student Kieron Achara’s 24-point effort.
“I thought they made some really tough shots in the second half,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I’m not overly pleased with it, but I’m very pleased that we found a way to get the win in a game that’s coming off a pretty emotional game like St. Joe’s was the other night.”
Not only were the Owls coming off a tough 57-56 win over Saint Joseph’s Sunday, but the team also had to deal with the emotions of Senior Night. Before the game, all three four-year players received framed jerseys and were greeted at midcourt by Dunphy and former Temple men’s basketball coach John Chaney.
In the end, Clark played 20 minutes and finished with just three points while Miller did not enter the game. Tyndale, however, scored the first five points of the game for the Owls and had nine points before he hit the back of his head on the court after falling awkwardly near midcourt in the first half. The Simon Gratz High School graduate was helped off the floor after receiving attention from several team doctors, but returned to the game several minutes afterwards.
“I’m just ready to go home and get some rest. I’m tired, man,” said Tyndale, whose left arm was wrapped in ice after the game.
Boosted by Tyndale’s early-game efforts, Temple went up, 18-16, on Christmas’ layup at the 13:54 mark in the first half. The lead grew to double-digits when Olmos hit a free throw to give the Owls a 32-22 advantage with 9:55 remaining before halftime. Olmos went 5-of-8 from the field in the first half.
“His confidence level is going up day-by-day,” Tyndale said. “Lavoy [Allen] and Orlando Miller do a great job at just battling with him, fouling him and making him tough [during] practice.”
The Owls will have a few more practices left before their season finale against host La Salle at the Tom Gola Arena Saturday at 4 p.m.
The Explorers (14-15, 8-7) fell out of third place in the A-10 standings after losing to host Massachusetts, 100-63, Wednesday night. The Big 5 title will be on the line Saturday as both Temple and La Salle will enter the game with a 2-1 record in the city series.
“We’ve got one more game left. It’s going to be the biggest game of the season, coming in playing La Salle, playing for the Big 5 championship,” Christmas said. “Once we win that game, I’ll be happy.”
With his 15-point performance, Tyndale passed Mike Vreeswyk, Aaron McKie and Granger Hall to move into eighth place on Temple’s all-time scoring list. Tyndale, who has now scored 1,657 points in his Temple career, passed Hall, who was formerly eighth, at the 16:02 mark when he hit a jumper for his 12th point of the game … Temple finished the season with a 10-4 record at home. The Owls were 6-2 in conference games played at the Liacouras Center … With the win, Temple improves to 6-0 over the Dukes in games played at the Liacouras Center.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at Tyson@temple.edu.