If last year was John Chaney’s dream season, this year has to be an absolute nightmare.
Temple’s tumultuous 2000-01 season continued Tuesday night as Jameer Nelson and Marvin O’Connor each scored 17 points en route to a 71-62 St. Joseph’s victory. The win gives the first place Hawks (20-4, 10-1 Atlantic 10) their 14th victory in the last 15 games, and the Hawks first season sweep of Temple since 1986.
“When John Chaney tells you after the game that you have a good team, then you have a good team,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “The Atlantic 10 goes through Temple, that’s a given and it’s the way it should be.
“The Atlantic 10 owes a lot of its standing nationally to John Chaney and the Temple Owls, and to have my team play this well, in this atmosphere, on national television is an honor for our program.”
While the Hawks inch closer to the program’s first ever at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Owls (14-12, 8-4) find themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to win all four of their remaining regular-season games and then reach at least the conference tournament final to have a shot at an at-large berth.
Kevin Lyde led the Owls with 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Lynn Greer recorded 14 points, but on 6-of-19 shooting. After shooting at or above 40 percent for seven consecutive games, the Owls shot 35 percent from the field and missed 11 of 20 free throws in the game.
According to Chaney, Murphy’s Law has been in effect all season for the Owls.
“I guess I’m snake-bitten. Even my first year at Temple was not as bad as this,” Chaney said in reference to the 1982-83 season in which the Owls finished 14-15. “The kids are working their butts off, [but] whatever’s wrong now goes wrong.”
To add to Temple’s woes, center Ron Rollerson suffered a left mid-foot sprain in the opening minutes of the second half and could miss significant time away from an already thin lineup.
Once Rollerson limped off the court in the second half, Temple had more coaches (three) than players (two) sitting on their bench. Rouldra Thomas did not make the trip due to a strep throat.
“He [Rollerson] kept saying that he thought he could play, but it’s a lot of man coming down on that ankle, so there is a strong possibility he might be out,” Chaney said. “Rouldra has a hundred degrees temperature, so I got to make sure I move all the players out of his room so nobody else will get sick, [or] you’ll see me in a bikini playing.”
The Hawks used solid ball movement throughout, taking their time and making the extra pass on almost every possession. The result, more often than not, was a wide-open shot attempt for a Hawk team that ranks 13th in the nation in field goal percentage.
“They did a great job against our zone,” Greer said. “They did pretty much what they wanted. Now we have to try to get it started against UMass. That’s the only thing we can worry about. Every game is a must [win].”
After trailing 37-24 at intermission, the Owls opened the second half on a 12-4 run that cut the lead to 41-36. Na’im Crenshaw answered the run by converting two consecutive three pointers that put the Hawks up 11 with 12 minutes remaining.
The Owls slowly fought to within five again after Lynn Greer’s 3-pointer at the 2:50 mark made it 60-55. But Temple couldn’t get any closer than that as the Hawks made their shots down stretch to pull away for good.
AROUND THE A-10
Now with back-to-back losses to Xavier and St. Joe’s, Temple has fallen to 0-2 in their toughest conference stretch of the season.
That makes the two upcoming games at Massachusetts on February 17 and at home against Dayton on February 24 even more magnified in importance. The Owls still have an outside shot at a 20-win season but must sweep the rest of their regular season games and advance to the conference final.
With a 10-1 record in the A-10, the Hawks control their own destiny as they stand one game ahead of second-place Xavier. But two of their four games remaining are tough: at Dayton and at home against Massachusetts.
In news from the bottom of the league, Rhode Island head coach Jerry DeGregorio announced his resignation on February 12, effective at the end of the season. The Rams are 5-19 overall this season, 1-10 in the A-10, and 10-44 over the span of DeGregorio’s two seasons.
But DeGregorio may be off the URI bench even sooner than expected. He recently checked himself into a hospital with exhaustion.
Back in Philly, John Chaney is highly upset about the lack of respect the polls have given the Atlantic 10’s top two teams all season. Chaney believes Xavier (18-4, 9-2) and St. Joe’s (20-4, 10-1) deserved to be in the Top 25 weeks ago, but have been overlooked by higher-profile teams. Xavier did crack the AP Top 25 last week, but promptly dropped out of the polls after a three-point road loss to St. Joe’s.
Chaney points to a team like the University of Connecticut (16-8, 5-6 Big East), which despite losing five games in row at one point, just recently fell out the Top 25, while the St. Joe’s and Xavier have won consistently all season.
According to Chaney, this year’s Connecticut team “can’t hold their (St. Joe’s) shoes as far as I’m concerned.”
UConn coach Jim Calhoun must have heard Chaney’s words last week, as 1999 national champ Connecticut responded with a huge win over ninth-ranked Boston College on Tuesday.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Lynn Greer gets the nod this week for scoring 44 points in two defeats, including a career-high 30 against Xavier on 10-18 shooting.
Greer didn’t have as much success against the Hawks, but still netted 14 points, and four assists with no turnovers. What many people do not realize is that Greer leads the nation in minutes played, averaging a whopping 39.6 minutes a game out of a possible 40. He played all 45 minutes in the overtime loss Massachusetts on January 27th.