It was bad. It was real bad.
For Temple, it was one game and out in the Atlantic Ten Tournament. Now, it’s off to a third-straight trip through the National Invitational Tournament.
The Owls were flat-out beat by a stingy, NCAA tournament-bound Richmond squad in the A-10 Tournament quarterfinals, 64-49, a week ago. During a 9-minute stretch in the second half, Temple missed 13 straight shots and scored one point as the Spiders extended the lead en route to victory.
The tepid performance drew the ire of both coach John Chaney and guard David Hawkins.
“The games that we won, these two guys shot the hell out of the ball,” said Chaney, referring to Hawkins and guard Mardy Collins. “When they don’t score, we can’t win. This is not a hard thing to understand. The other teams know what I know. That’s why every time we got the ball, two guys are playing them. And it’s rather frustrating to know that you’re getting nothing out of a 7-footer.”
Chaney was referring to 7-foot sophomore center Keith Butler.
It is just the second time in 21 seasons a Chaney-led team has not advanced to the conference semifinals. Hawkins, who has been vocal for the last two years about getting Temple back into the NCAAs, was visibly frustrated.
“We just have to take care of business early in the season so we don’t have to wait until now, because it’s hard to win at the end of the season,” said Hawkins, who scored 20 points against Richmond. He had 2,052 points in his career prior to Wednesday night’s NIT game at Rutgers.
With 1 minute, 40 seconds left in last Thursday’s game with the Owls down 16, Hawkins was tentative about leaving the game. When he saw freshman reserve guard Robert Allen checking in. Hawkins gavea surprised look toward Chaney and asked if he was coming out. He was.
As has been the case all season, Hawkins and Collins carried the load with little support. The assiduous Hawkins has been patient all season, but vented some of his frustration on the languid play of Butler, who logged just 11 minutes, picking up four fouls, no points and no rebounds.
“There’s nothing much more the coaches can do,” Hawkins lamented. “It’s all about what’s inside of [Butler]. If he wants to get better, he’s got to put the work in. He probably didn’t put the work in like he said he did this summer. He didn’t see the results. Hopefully this was enough for him.
“Really, there’s no way Keith is supposed to stay in school for four years. With his size and putting the work in, he should have averaged a double-double. He’d probably have been gone this year. They [the NBA] are always looking for someone to compete with Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal]. So he must like school, basically, if he wants to stay around.”
Chaney was even less forgiving.
“I think we have fool’s gold, that’s what we have on the floor,” Chaney said. “When I put the 7-footer out on the floor, we have fool’s gold. There’s no need to double-team him.”
By the time Chaney’s press conference ended, Butler had already left the locker room. He was reached Tuesday evening for a response to Hawkins’ assessment.
“I don’t really have nothing to say,” Butler said. “I don’t take anything to heart.”
Butler said he gains confidence from his teammates’ support, but doesn’t need it to play better.
Owls return to NITs once again
By earning a bid to the NIT for the third straight year, Temple has been in the postseason in each of the past 21 seasons. Two years ago, the Owls made it to the NIT Final Four. Last year, they advanced to the quarterfinals.
“We get the NIT bid, we’re still going to be playing basketball,” Hawkins said. “I don’t know how many teams make the NIT. It’s not where we wanted to be, but we got to make the most of it.”
Just last year, the NIT committee bumped up the number of teams from 32 to 48. The Owls played at Rutgers last night, a game that ended too late for this edition. Earlier this season, the Scarlet Knights beat up on the Owls, 77-67.
The A-10 conference showed its strength with four teams receiving NCAA bids, including Xavier, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton and Richmond … George Washington and Rhode Island were the other A-10 teams to earn NIT bids.
Mark Tynadale, a small forward at Simon Gratz High, made it official and signed a Letter of Intent to attend Temple. At 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds Tyndale averaged 22 points a game this season, including a 27-point performance to lead the Bulldogs to the Public League crown earlier this month.
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at email@example.com.