The men’s basketball team had five different players score at least 14 points as the No. 24 Owls defeated La Salle, 96-76, in an Atlantic Ten Conference tournament quarterfinal contest.
On a day where two of the tournament’s top seeds, first-seed Xavier and fourth-seed Duquesne, fell to lesser seeds, the second-seeded Owls felt extra pressure to avoid the upset, junior guard Ramone Moore said.
“We didn’t want that that to be us,” Moore said. “We had to come out focused and get a victory. La Salle is a tough team and I don’t think they gave up the whole game.”
“We definitely came out with a purpose,” senior forward Lavoy Allen added. “This is our third time playing La Salle, so we thought this was going to be the toughest game out of all of them.”
Allen posted his sixth-straight double-double as he scored 14 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds. Allen also dished a career-high six assists. The rebounding total marked the seventh time that Allen had posted double-figure rebounds in the A-10 tournament, a new record.
“I got it going a little bit early in the game and then they started to double down on me so I had to make plays for my team. I got my teammates open for open jump shots and they knocked them down.”
“I recruited Lavoy [coming out of Pennsbury High School] as hard as humanly possible so my background on Lavoy goes real far back,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “He always understands what [Temple coach Fran Dunphy and staff are] trying to do. I think his basketball IQ is super high and that’s a positive reflection on him.”
Owls led, 42-32, at the break. La Salle sophomore center Aaric Murray had 10 points to lead the Explorers, a mark that was matched by Allen in the opening 20 minutes. Murray finished the game with a team-high 22 points and 11 rebounds but also turned the ball over five times, all in the first half.
The 96 points were the most by Temple this season and the highest mark by a Dunphy squad since Feb. 20, 2008 against St. Bonaventure. The Owls shot 52.2 percent from the field, including 52.6 percent from beyond the three-point line.
“I thought we played well offensively,” Dunphy said. “We didn’t guard La Salle well because they’re so tough to guard…they scored a lot of points but it was one of those games where we just had to find a way to get more.”
Junior forward Scootie Randall missed his sixth straight game for the Owls with a hairline fracture in his foot. Freshman guard Aaron Brown started in his place and scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Brown also played a career-high 34 minutes, substantially more than his previous high of 20 minutes.
“I thought Aaron was terrific,” Dunphy said. “We asked Aaron to guard some of his up-front guys and he battled as hard as he possibly could. He’s done a good job all year long in terms of staying ready. Now, his opportunity is coming and he looks like he’s growing up in front of us.”
Moore finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting. The total marked the first time Moore had at least 20 points since Feb. 17, when he scored 24 points in the win over Richmond. Sophomore guard Khalif Wyatt scored 20 points off the bench while junior guard Juan Fernandez chipped in 19 points off of 6-of-13 shooting.
La Salle shot 53.4 percent from the field but was plagued by 22 turnovers. Four players scored in double digits for the Explorers. In addition to Murray’s 22 points, freshman guard Tyreek Duren scored 14, senior guard Ruben Guillandeaux scored 17 and senior forward Jerrell Williams added 11.
The Owls will continue their quest for a fourth-straight conference championship tomorrow against Richmond. Tipoff is set for approximately 3:30 p.m.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com