Temple’s mantra remains the same: Win and advance

DAYTON — A formidable task looms in the form of 10th-ranked Xavier tonight in the semifinal round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Tipoff is 7 p.m. The Owls (14-14), who advanced to the semifinals with

DAYTON — A formidable task looms in the form of 10th-ranked Xavier tonight in the semifinal round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
The Owls (14-14), who advanced to the semifinals with Thursday’s 66-52 win over Richmond, will have to give a Herculean effort to compete with A-10 Player of the Year and all-American David West and his dangerous supporting cast in order to keep their postseason aspirations alive
Temple has reached the A-10 semifinals in 20 of the last 21 seasons. Owls coach John Chaney has only lost once in the A-10 quarterfinals. That happened last year, when LaSalle beat Temple at the First Union Spectrum.
Xavier (25-4), the defending champion, currently owns a school record 16-game winning streak. The Musketeers thrashed the Owls, 96-65, six days ago at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati in the regular season finale. Temple, of course, knows it must put together a better effort to stand a chance.
“They come in with an advantage since they beat us,” Owls junior guard David Hawkins said. “We have to watch the tapes and make up for our mistakes from that game. We have to try our best to stop West, give him only one shot. We have to work on our defensive rebounding.”
In Thursday’s win over Richmond, the Owls played extremely well, contesting shots and hitting the boards. Temple outrebounded the Spiders, 37-29. Freshman forward Antywane Robinson, who had been shelved with an ankle sprain, played for the first time in almost a month and led the Owls with eight rebounds.
“Antywane is able to pick up any guy in the middle and then recover to a lower position on our zone,” Chaney said. “That kind of flexibility is what we need,”.
The Musketeers lead the A-10 in rebounding. West, a 6-foot-9 forward and a likely NBA lottery pick, is fourth in the nation with 11.9 rebounds a game, and 6-9 junior forward Anthony Myles leads the A-10 in offensive rebounds.
Still, Xavier’s outside shooting can influence a game as much as its inside presence. When first-team A-10 guard Romain Sato is on, he can swish three-pointers like free throws. Dedrick Finn, a member of the A-10 all-freshman team, was second in the league, connecting on 45 percent of his trifectas, while point guard Lionel Chalmers has a penchant for hitting timely threes, as he did in Thursday’s 78-73 win over George Washington.
“When you play against a well-balanced team like Xavier, you pick your poison,” Chaney said.
If the Owls lose tonight, they will be absent from any postseason tournament for the first time in 19 years. Last season, Temple’s string of 12 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament was snapped after losing to LaSalle in the A-10 quarterfinals. They settled for an NIT bid, reaching the semifinals at New York’s Madison Square Garden before falling to eventual NIT champion Memphis.
If it means anything, history is on the Owls’ side. Temple’s 39 wins are the most in A-10 tourney play, and the Owls have a 3-0 record against the Musketeers in the tournament. Prior to last year’s quarterfinal exit, Temple had been in the conference championship game eight of the last nine years.
“We look at Xavier as just the next opponent, the next game,” senior forward Alex Wesby said. “We have to focus on what we need to do to get the win.”
After losing by 31 to Xavier last Saturday afternoon, Chaney held practice at 10 p.m. that night – after the team had returned from its flight from Cincinnati.
Chaney had a feeling his team would see the Musketeers again.
And even if Temple doesn’t prevail tonight, the Hall of Fame coach at the least expects a stronger effort in this pivotal rematch.

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