Last May, men’s basketball star Mark Tyndale became an official alumnus of Temple University. The local product spent four years slashing past Atlantic Ten defenders. His absence has also meant the retirement of last season’s tagline “One-two punch”. The phrase was coined to capture the powerful combination of Tyndale, and then-junior guard Dionte Christmas. While 2008-2009 has been deemed “Five months of Christmas”, the Owls may want to exhume a familiar slogan. Sophomore forward Lavoy Allen has come out swinging.
In a 75-68 victory over La Salle at Tom Gola Arena on Sunday night, Allen and senior guard Dionte Christmas took turns beating up on the Explorers. If it wasn’t a detrimental Christmas deep ball, it was the smashing stylings of Allen down low. Christmas finished with a game-high 30 points, and Allen was paced with 21 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
The rest of the A-10 will have to rival the inside-outside threat of both men, who are shaping into form for another tournament run. Allen also has a tendency to pull out and hit the three-ball, while Christmas is slowly working his way into the lane more often with cuts to the basket.
Coach Fran Dunphy calls Allen the team’s “most talented player”, and believes that it’s up to the 6’9 forward to “decide if he wants to be great”. The aggressive side of Allen was on display against La Salle, as he emphatically slammed home two dunks, and wrestled in five offensive rebounds.
“He’s just really good,” Explorers coach Dr. John Giannini said. “He takes what the defense gives him and he’s consistent. I knew when they got him that it was a difference making situation in the city.”
The returning punch, Christmas, the A-10’s two-time defending scoring champ, takes his 21 points per game average into conference play. He found a way to turn back several Explorer charges with key three-pointers. Last season, the sharpshooter averaged 19.6 points per game in conference, something opposing defenses know all too well.
Allen, who says he is fully recovered from a bum thumb suffered early in the season, appears to be well on his way to similar production numbers. Last year Allen averaged a solid 7.6 points per A-10 game, but looks to increase his numbers this time around. If he can stay out of foul trouble, a successful achievement against La Salle, Allen will have a fruitful next couple of months.
“That’s critical for us,” Dunphy said. “It’s just the opportunity to have him on the floor that long is what we’re hoping for. I think that’s a case of how valuable he is for us.”
Tomorrow the Owls face a struggling Penn (3-7) team at the Palestra. A challenging road test with Massachusetts (6-8) looms on Saturday. Last season, the Owls beat the Minutemen 80-70 piggybacking off of Allen’s former career-high of 20 points. The one-two punch had 20 (Tyndale) and 16 (Christmas). While it may take a collective team effort for the Owls to ride into the NCAA tournament again this year, Christmas and Allen look to be the A-10’s next nightmare.