Mark Tyndale’s shooting was about as perfect as one could get Saturday, but there was just something about his free throws that he couldn’t figure out.
The junior guard shot 14-of-17 from the field and made each of the five three-pointers he attempted as Temple topped Charlotte, 81-69, at the Liacouras Center.
He made a career-best 37 points, but of all things, it was the charity stripe that prevented him from reaching 40.
Tyndale shot just 4-for-11 from the free throw line.
“Somebody told me I should shoot threes for the free throws,” Tyndale joked. “I heard a fan in the crowd saying that. And I couldn’t help but listen to him.”
After such a successful day, Tyndale could laugh about his struggles at the line. It also didn’t hurt that the Owls snapped their three-game losing streak and clinched a spot in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament.
Despite Tyndale’s scoring performance – his 37 points were the highest by an A-10 player this season – coach Fran Dunphy was most impressed with a rebound Tyndale grabbed.
“I think the lead got cut to 10 and he just decided he was going to get a rebound,” Dunphy said. “It was just a terrific effort by him. And then the stick back, which again gave us a little bit of breathing room.”
In addition to leading the Owls (12-15 overall, 6-8 A-10) in points, Tyndale notched a team-high nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
“He’s always going to do something, and you hope that most of them are really good things,” Dunphy said. “[But] he does some just incredibly mindless things as well. And he’ll say to you that I remind him more of the mindless than I do of the brilliant.
“I think he can be a really, really good basketball player. What you don’t expect is him shooting 5-for-5 on threes. He really came through for us in a number of stretches.”
Tyndale’s showing overshadowed that of Dionte Christmas, who continued to struggle despite finishing second on the team in scoring with 13 points. Christmas shot just 4-of-12.
Dunphy dismissed the idea that the law of averages had caught up to Christmas. He said the sophomore guard is simply in a slump.
“He had, I thought, six pretty clean, open looks from the three-point line. He’s making two of them,” Dunphy said. “I do see a progression though.”
Christmas found other ways to help. He reeled in seven rebounds, one shy of his career-best.
“I wasn’t shooting as well as I was at the beginning of the season, but I tried to do other things to get me in the flow of the game,” Christmas said. “That’s rebounding [and] passing the ball – doing the little things.”
The Owls controlled the game from the start. Center Sergio Olmos permanently gave the Owls the lead when he made a layup about two minutes into the game.
49ers guard Leemire Goldwire hit a three-pointer at 15:40 to make it a 9-5 game, but that was as close as Charlotte would come.
Behind Tyndale, the Owls constructed a 24-10 lead halfway through the first period. The lead didn’t increase much the rest of the way, but Charlotte (13-14, 6-8) didn’t get much closer, either. The Owls took a 12-point margin to the break.
When Dionte Christmas hit a trey with 6:06 remaining, that lead ballooned to 17 points, at 70-53. But the 49ers weren’t done quite yet.
Two fouls and two turnovers by the Owls allowed Charlotte to creep back into the game. Goldwire made all four of his free throws, a layup and a jump shot to single-handily fuel an 8-0 run. With 4:50 left, Temple’s lead was down to 70-61.
But a few Charlotte fouls forced Temple to the line, where forwards Ryan Brooks and Dion Dacons iced the game.
Dunphy hasn’t changed his starting lineup much this season, but he tinkered with it for the second consecutive game.
Against Saint Joseph’s Thursday, he inserted junior DaShone Kirkendoll in place of Christmas.
Saturday, he started the 7-0 Olmos in favor of Semaj Inge, who had started at guard in each game prior.
“Coach hasn’t been thinking [that] I’ve been producing lately,” Inge said. “So, I guess, he’s trying to motivate me more.
“I think he thinks I can be a pretty good player. At practice, he gets on me all the time. So, this is just something that he’s trying to get me to grow and be a better player.”
Inge notched six points, five boards, five assists and three steals. He also had three turnovers.
“I think Semaj is a talented athlete,” Dunphy said. “He’s got to be the best defensive player he can be. Semaj turned it over three times and we’ll talk about that a little bit. He just can’t turn it over.
“He’s got to be a great defensive player. He’s got to make great decisions on the offensive end. But I was pleased with how Semaj handled not starting and coming off the bench. He did a really good job with it.”
The Owls take on Dayton Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center. Seniors Dustin Salisbery and Dacons will play their last game in front of the home crowd.
The Flyers have won just once on the road this season.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.