A record crowd waited in vain to shake the First Union Center on Saturday.
Nearly 20,000 people – the largest crowd ever to watch a men’s college basketball game in the state of Pennsylvania — showed up to watch Temple throw down with No. 1-ranked Duke for the second time in eight days.
After the Owls took a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes, the Blue Devils shoved the cheers down the crowd’s throat with bomb after bomb from beyond the arc. Duke buried Temple early, winning 93-68.
The firing squad was led by National Player of the Year candidate Shane Battier and Jason Williams.
As a team, Duke equaled a program record with 17 three-pointers.
“I felt like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Temple coach John Chaney said. “Every time I looked up, somebody was shooting at me.”
Against Duke, Temple had about as much of a chance as Butch and Sundance in Bolivia. The sophomore Williams was perfect from the floor in the first half, including six three-pointers.
Worse yet, the Owls couldn’t find clean shot against Duke’s man-to-man defense, settling for off-balance jumpers and putback chances.
From the opening moments, Temple was overmatched and overwhelmed. Duke led 47-25 at the break.
“They just took us apart,” Chaney said. “They just handed us our head in our hands. You know, I’ve got a couple young guys that’s got to learn from this, but this is really a very special group you saw tonight.”
Williams finished the game with a career-high 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting, including 8-for-10 from long range. While Williams went on his scoring binge, freshman Chris Duhon helped out with the point guard duties, dishing out 12 assists.
“Chris loves to pass,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He got a lot of confidence from the way he was playing Greer. He’s in great shape. Duhon is a kid who doesn’t get tired, so when he got to the offensive side of the court… (he was) aggressive enough to penetrate.”
Battier added a game-high nine rebounds to an 18-point performance, but his most significant contributions are made with his ability to lead.
“He’s very grounded as a person,” Chaney said of Battier. “He’s not intimidated by money or… the fact that somebody else is going to score more points. He’s really the perfect team player. He’s high-intellect on the floor; basketball savvy is what he is.
“He’s a great man. To talk to him and hear some of his ideas, you would know that he is well-grounded.”
Player of the week
Freshman David Hawkins scored a career-high 15 points against Duke, on a 6-for-12 shooting performance. He was 3-for-6 from beyond the arc on a night when his Temple teammates shot 3-for-16 from long range otherwise.
He followed that up with 10 points against Villanova, logging 38 minutes of action in support of an injured Quincy Wadley.
If Wadley’s shoulder injury, sustatined near the end of the first half at Nova, turns out to be serious, Hawkins will likely draw his first Temple start against Penn State on Saturday.
Temple and the nation
The Owls’ losses to Duke and Miami (Ohio) Nov. 30 dropped Temple out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll from its No. 17 slot. In college basketball’s other major ranking, the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll, the Owls dropped from No. 15 to No. 23.
Tuesday night’s loss to Villanova will probably knock Temple out of both polls come Monday morning.
In the coming weeks, however, Temple will get a chance to prove itself on a national stage.
The Owls will welcome No. 17 (AP) Wisconsin, a Final Four team last year, to the Liacouras Center Dec. 14. One week later, No. 11 Wake Forest will visit North Broad.
Temple dropped road games against both the Badgers and the Demon Deacons last year.
Around the Atlantic 10
Temple, Dayton, Xavier, St. Bonaventure and George Washington all received votes in both the major national ranking polls this past week.
Dayton began the season with upsets over a couple of ranked opponents in No. 15 Maryland and No. 19 Connecticut, while losing to No. 2 Arizona, No. 18 Cincinnati and unranked Marshall.
George Washington recently upset Big East power No. 24 St. John’s. The Colonials’ Chris Monroe collected A-10 Player of the Week honors, averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds in the win over the Red Storm and a loss to South Florida last week.
John Chaney has had his fill of the nation’s best team. The legendary head coach says that two losses to Duke will hole him for quite a while.
“I just don’t want to see Duke anymore,” Chaney said. “I don’t mind anybody else other than Duke, to tell you the truth. If we’re lucky, maybe we get a chance to see them again, but I’d like to mail in my loss to him (Krzyzewski) and that ballclub, if we do.”