ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – When a team is able to hold its opponent’s best scorer to only six points, chances are they might have a good shot at winning the game.
The Charlotte 49ers kept Temple’s top scorer, Dionte Christmas, under wraps but couldn’t contain the other half of the Owls “one-two punch” – Mark Tyndale
Tyndale scored 20 points, snared 15 rebounds and dished out four assists in the second-seeded Owls’ 60-45 win over No. 6 Charlotte in the Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament semifinals Friday night at Boardwalk Hall.
Guided by the 6-foot-5 senior’s efforts, the Owls (20-12) won their sixth consecutive game and advanced to the A-10 Championship game to face their Big 5-rival and long-time nemesis, Saint Joseph’s, Saturday at 6 p.m. The fifth-seeded Hawks (21-11) beat No. 1 Xavier, 61-53, in the opening game to move on to the final round.
Temple split its two regular season games against St. Joe’s with both contests being decided by a point.
With the victory, the Owls have reached reached the conference’s championship game for the first time since 2003, when they lost to Dayton at the University of Dayton Arena.
“It feels good. [We’ve] got a chance to go the [NCAA] Tournament. It can’t get no better,” Tyndale said.
Despite sewing up his second consecutive double-double – his sixth of the season – Tyndale still wasn’t completely satisfied with his performance.
“Eight turnovers,” he said glancing over the stat sheet during the post-game press conference. “I have to do a better job than that tomorrow. I can’t lead my team with eight turnovers.”
Yet, somehow, he did.
Tyndale’s teammate and fellow senior, Chris Clark, was the only other Owl to score in double-figures as Christmas was held to just six points on 2 of 9 shooting. Clark finished with 13 points in 25 minutes off the bench while freshman Lavoy Allen, who played all 40 minutes, scored six points and pulled down nine rebounds in a game that Temple outboarded Charlotte, 48-28.
Charlotte’s leading scorer, Leemire Goldwire, shot only 5 of 18 from the field for 18 points, while junior Lamont Mack was equally inefficient, making only four of his 17 shots for 11 points. As a team, the 49ers shot 27 percent for the contest.
Temple led from the opening tip, establishing double-digit leads several times throughout the first 30 minutes of the game.
Nursing a 10-point lead with 9:55 left, the Owls scored only two points in the next two minutes, 55 seconds to allow Charlotte to climb back into the game. Goldwire sank a three-pointer that caused Temple to call a timeout after its lead shrunk to 44-39 with seven minutes remaining.
“We knew coming into the second half that Charlotte won’t quit. They do a tremendous job of fighting to the end,” Clark said referring to the 49ers’ second-half rally in their win over Massachusetts in the quarterfinals Thursday.
After the timeout, the Owls went on an 11-3 run, which gave them a sizeable 55-42 advantage with 2:24 left.
In a game where both teams didn’t shoot a high percentage from the field, that was a large enough margin to seal the 49ers’ fate.
That, and Tyndale’s solid individual performance.
“You could just see it in his eyes that he was ready to go tonight,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I think he just had it in his mind that he didn’t want to stop playing basketball at Temple.”
And he won’t. Not yet, anyway.
As the clock winded down, the Temple student section started a “we want St. Joe’s” chant. It was a sentiment that Tyndale agreed with after the game.
“I was pulling for St. Joe’s,” he said.
For the first time in A-10 Tournament history, the two storied Philadelphia schools will vie for the A-10 Championship.
“What more can you ask for?” Dunphy said. “We are going to play in the championship against our biggest rival and this is what it’s all about.”
The Owls will play in their 14th A-10 Championship game, a conference record. Temple is 6-7 in A-10 title games … With the win, Temple improved to 14-9 in A-10 tournament semifinals … The Owls and St. Joe’s have met nine times in A-10 tournament play with Temple winning seven of those games. The Hawks have won the previous two meetings, including a victory in the first round of last year’s tournament.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.
(Top photo by Kevin Cook. Left photo by Ron Davis)
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