Two college freshman: one struck down by a momentary disappointment, one lifted up by tragic adversity, each a symbol of a different kind of courage.
Their paths converged at the Liacouras Center on Saturday afternoon, as the Temple men’s basketball team lost to Atlantic 10 Conference rival Massachusetts, 65-64 in overtime.
Temple freshman guard David Hawkins suffered his most bitter disappointment as an Owl, missing a free throw that could have tied the game. Penn State freshman Adam Taliaferro, victim of a debilitating spinal injury on the football field for the Nittany Lions last fall, watched from the stand, just days after shocking doctors by walking on his own.
“That’s a man with courage,” Temple coach John Chaney said, bursting in upon UMass coach Bruiser Flint’s press conference and pointing to Taliaferro, who was seated among the assembled media. “Thanks for coming, son. Don’t ever put a striped shirt on your ass.”
In an obscenity-laden press conference of his own, Chaney criticized the game’s officials for not making a call that could have turned the game for the Owls in the final seconds of overtime.
Hawkins went to the line for two shots with 4.4 seconds left in overtime and Temple trailing 65-63. He made the first to pull the Owls within one point, but missed the potential tying foul shot.
The ball bounced off the back of the rim and to the right, where a frantic Hawkins rebounded his own miss. He would never get a shot off, however, as UMass players swarmed him.
Hawkins ended up on the floor of the Liacouras Center as time ran out.
“He got fouled,” Chaney said. “It was the worst foul of the whole game. David was just knocked to the floor. He (a UMass player) took his legs out from under him.
“Policemen don’t beat anybody that bad with a stick.”
Chaney went on to question the official’s willingness to make difficult decisions with a game in the balance.
“It takes courage to make the right call when you see it,” he said. “With the new rule changes the officials are lost. He (Hawkins) was crying. I told him, ‘If you’re lucky, you’ll have a chance to miss a lot more foul shots.’ He’s still young.”
Chaney, as well as the rest of the Temple team, stressed that the game should never have deteriorated to the point where a late call could make a difference.
“We tried to pick out a point in the game where (the Temple players) could have made a difference before it got to that point,” Chaney said. “Before it was left in the hands of three blind men.”
The Minutemen almost took the game in regulation. They led 55-53 with 28.4 seconds left, when a Lynn Greer floater missed high off the backboard. Temple forward Alex Wesby was there for the putback, however, to tie the game with 9.7 seconds left.
UMass used a time out to regroup, then ran a set play. Minuteman guard Jonathan Depina put up a jumper that missed, as did four rapid-fire offensive putbacks before regulation expired.
UMass senior guard Monty Mack led all scorers with 20 points, while Greer paced Temple with 16. The difference in the game was Minuteman center Kitwana Rhymer, who scored 14 points on 4-for-12 from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line, despite the vocal efforts of a partisan crown of 7,112.
“It was like a tone in my head,” Rhymer said of the crown noise. “I don’t listen; I just shoot it.”
With the win, Massachusetts improved to 8-10 on the season, including 6-1 in the A-10. The Minutemen retained a share of first place in the conference, while Temple dropped to 11-10 (5-2) and into fifth place in the conference.
The game was crucial for both team, as the Owls try to keep their heads above water and Massachusetts tries to put together a strong enough conference campaign to merit an easier draw in the A-10 tournament.
Temple should be able to rebound from the loss, as the Owls travel to face lowly Duquesne at the Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh on Friday night.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Temple junior center Kevin Lyde notched a double-double performance against Massachusetts, scoring 13 points and 12 rebounds. He also recorded a block and a steal, dominating Rhymer for most of the first half.
Unfortunately for the Owls, Lyde fouled out of the game with just under two minutes left in overtime. The foul call didn’t escape Chaney’s notice.
“My most important player fouled out on a little touch foul,” he said. “He just had his hands on (Rhymer) on a hook shot. He didn’t even go up to block it.”