Playing in front of one of Temple’s finest teams, the men’s basketball team had the chance to accomplish a feat no Temple team had achieved in nearly 19 years.
The Owls had 92 points on the scoreboard with 6:06 remaining, but they fell four points shy of becoming the first Temple team to score 100 points in a game since Feb. 4, 1988.
But the Owls still put on a show for the 1956 Temple Final Four squad, notching a Liacouras Center record with 50 first-half points on the way to a 96-73 win over Lafayette Thursday.
Prior to the game, coach Fran Dunphy brought Temple Hall of Famer Hal Lear into the locker room to speak to the Owls.
“It’s nice to see all of those guys come back,” Dunphy said of the 1956 Owls. “We talked about that before the game, how important it is to represent this institution and this basketball team and this basketball program.”
Senior Dustin Salisbery fueled the Owls’ attack, scoring 19 of his game-high 26 points in the first frame. He also topped the Owls (6-4) with eight rebounds.
Salisbery was one of three Owls to score at least 20 points as the team shot 51.7 percent from the field, the third time this season it has made at least half of its field goal attempts.
Guards Mark Tyndale and Dionte Christmas each totaled 20 points, a season-high for Tyndale. Most of Tyndale’s points come from the free throw line, where he hit 12-of-15 shots.
Tyndale’s success behind the charity stripe mirrored that of the Owls, who made 28-of-35 free throws.
Free throws have not been a strong point this season. The Owls entered the game shooting .643 on free throws, good for 12th in the 14-team Atlantic Ten Conference.
“I think it’s easier to shoot good fouls when you’re up by a couple of points,” Dunphy said.
“When the pressure gets turned up, we’ll see if we’re improved.”
The Leopards (6-8) took an early 7-2 lead, but the Owls quickly tied the score at 9-9 behind five points from Christmas, who also snagged two steals during that stretch.
A three-point shot by Dion Dacons put the Owls on top for good, at 14-12, with 13:46 remaining in the first half. The Owls made seven of their 10 treys in the first half.
A 13-2 and a 9-1 run put the Owls up by 18, at 48-30, but the Leopards closed the gap to 50-37 at half.
The Leopards got within nine points of the Owls in the first minute of the second half, at 52-39, but a 9-4 Temple run again put the Owls up by 18, at 61-43.
“When we got back on the court during the second half, I told [the team] ‘We need to come out and put these guys away right now, instead of letting them get back in the game and getting a run,'” Salisbery said.
With about six minutes remaining, the Owls had a chance to do something special. With the score at 92-64, they had a shot to become the first Temple team to score 100 points since Feb. 4, 1988.
With many of the team’s seldom-used reserves playing, the Owls managed just four points during the remainder of the game and fell four points short of the century mark.
“[The score’s] sort of meaningless at some point,” Dunphy said. “I wanted to try and get as many guys into the game as we could.”
The Owls open their Big 5 schedule at Villanova Saturday at 7 p.m. The Wildcats won the Big 5 title last season with an unblemished 4-0 record.
The game also marks the beginning of a three-game road stretch in which the Owls will face some of their toughest competition of the season. Following Saturday’s game against Villanova, the Owls travel to Durham, N.C. to take on nationally-ranked Duke on Jan. 2.
Temple then heads to Cincinnati to play Xavier in the Owls’ Atlantic Ten Conference opener. The Musketeers were picked to win the A-10 in a preseason poll.
“They’re all tough teams,” Salisbery said. … “We’re just going to take it game-by-game.”
CELEBRATING A LANDMARK
The 11 living members of the 1956 Temple team celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Temple’s first Final Four appearance during halftime.
Hal Lear, Fred Cohen, Jay Norman, Hotsy Reinfeld, Dan Fleming, John Granozio, Leon Smith, Fred Dobisch, Mel Brodsky, Bill Smith and Bernie Osherow were each presented a Temple windbreaker. Sports Information Director Al Shrier, who has worked for the Athletic Department for 54 years, and team managers Charles Hulet and Frank Walker also received a jacket.
Guided by the late Harry Litwack, the 1956 Owls ascended to 13th place in the national rankings. Lear was named the Final Four Most Valuable Player for his 48-point performance in the Owls’ victory against Southern Methodist in the third-place game.
The late Guy Rodgers, whose No. 5 has been retired by the Owls, teamed with Lear to form one of the best backcourts in Philadelphia history.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.