For just the second time underneath coach Fran Dunphy, the men’s basketball team lost a game in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament as the Owls lost to Richmond, 58-54.
The Owls, who were seeking their fourth-straight A-10 championship, finally had their lack of front-court depth finally caught up with them as sophomore forward Rahlir Jefferson and senior forward Lavoy Allen picked up three and two fouls in the first half, respectively. The duo combined to play just 25 minutes in the opening half.
Because of the foul trouble, Dunphy oftentimes had to play a small lineup. At one point, freshman guard Aaron Brown was the tallest Owl on the floor at 6-feet-5-inches. Dayton exploited Temple’s size as the Flyers scored 40 percent, 12 of 30, of their first-half points in the paint.
Despite the statistics, Allen’s defense wasn’t affected by his fouls, he said.
“I don’t think I let up on defense,” Allen said. “Foul trouble or not, I was still trying to play the defense the same way.”
Allen, who had seven points and just three rebounds in the first half, managed to compile solid stats in the second half. At the end of the game, Allen had 12 points and 10 rebounds, his seventh-straight double-double.
In the second half, the Owls shot even worse as they hit just 9-of-29 from the field and a meager 2-of-13 from three-point land.
The Owls shot just 35.1 percent from the field, including 28 percent from beyond the arc. The Cherry and White didn’t do much better at the charity stripe, as they hit just 7-of-12 from the free-throw line.
Junior guard Juan Fernandez dished a career-high 10 assists and grabbed seven rebounds, but had just seven points on 3-of-17 shooting. Fernandez’s lacking of scoring success was surprising, Richmond coach Chris Mooney said.
“For once, Juan didn’t have a great game,” Mooney said. “He had good stats, but he didn’t shoot the ball well against us and that was big.”
“I’m not sure what Juan’s mindset was, but I think maybe he thought there was a lot of pressure on him to make something happen when our offense was a little stagnant,” Allen said. “He tried to make some plays, and unfortunately he didn’t shoot the ball well.”
The game witnessed 10 lead changes and neither team led by more than six in the second half. The Owls led, 54-53, with 5:02 left in the game but went scoreless the rest of the way.
“They really clamped down on defense,” Allen said. “They forced us to take some bad shots and rush some shots and they defended us pretty well.”
Richmond itself scored just four points in the remaining minutes.
“I thought both teams played really great defense,” Mooney said. “I don’t know how many points were scored in the last four minutes, but it wasn’t many. I thought ours was just a little better. It was really difficult for them to score.”
Sophomore guard Khalif Wyatt led the Owls with 15 points off the bench. Wyatt started the game off 3-for-3 from the field, including 2-of-2 from beyond the beyond the arc, but shot just 2-of-8 the rest of the game.
Junior guard Ramone Moore chipped in 11 points while playing all 40 minutes. Brown added nine points on 3-of-6 shooting in 27 minutes of play.
Richmond senior guard Kevin Anderson led all scorers with 22 points while senior forward Justin Harper chipped in 18 points. Anderson, who made just one three-pointer in the game, relied on his speed to create penetration.
The rest of the season is uncertain for the Owls. The team is almost certainly a lock for the NCAA tournament, but won’t find out for sure until tomorrow’s Selection Sunday Show. Regardless of the location, tournament or seeding, the Owls will be prepared, Allen said.
“Whether we’re in the NCAA Tournament or NIT or CBI, it doesn’t matter,” Allen said. “We’re just trying to go out there and just win. Doesn’t matter if we would have won the championship this game or not, we’re going to play the same way.”
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org