Sunday, March 11, 2001

Temple wins A-10 Tournament


Owls get 12th straight NCAA berth the hard way

By ROB MAADDI
AP Sports Writer

        PHILADELPHIA — John Chaney kept reminding his team how close it was to beating Duke. It paid off Saturday.

        Lynn Greer scored 20 points and Kevin Lyde had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead Temple to a 76-65 victory over Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 tournament final. That sent the Owls to the NCAA tournament for the 12th straight year.

        Temple (21-12) avenged four straight losses to UMass (15-15) in the A-10 title game in the 1990s; won its second straight conference championship and sixth overall; and completed a remarkable turnaround following a tough start.

        After opening with four wins, Temple lost seven straight — the longest losing streak in Chaney's 18 seasons at the school. One of the losses came to then-No. 1 Duke 63-61 in the championship game of the Preseason NIT.

        “You keep throwing back in their face where we were when we were a whole unit,” Chaney said. “We were about a minute away from beating the No. 1 team, so you always look back to where you once were to try and determine where you should be. You always have to say to the kids, 'We're not this bad. Just think back.”'

        Kitwana Rhymer had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Jonathon DePina added 14 for UMass, which upset No. 21 St. Joseph's to reach the tournament final.

        Monty Mack, who scored 56 points in the first two games of the tournament, had 12. He didn't take a shot in the first 12 minutes of the second half and finished 2-of-10.

        “We tried everything,” Chaney said. “We ran a different zone, a ball zone, we tried a box. We did everything humanly possible.”

        Quincy Wadley had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Alex Wesby added 10 points for the Owls.

        Temple, which wasted a 12-point first-half lead, used a 12-4 run to erase a one-point deficit and take the lead for good late in the game.

        Greer, the tournament MVP, scored nine points during the spurt, including an acrobatic play that gave the Owls their biggest lead of the second half.

        Greer was stripped by Shannon Crooks on a driving layup, caught the ball while twisting in the air, hit a floater and was fouled. His free throw completed the three-point play and made it 68-60 with 3:57 left.

        Three free throws by Mack cut it to 68-65. After both teams missed several shots, Lyde hit two free throws to give Temple a 70-65 lead with 49 seconds left.

        The Minutemen didn't score the rest of the way.

        “No one really expected this team to go as far as it did,” Greer said. “Everything was against us. But everybody worked so hard and it paid off.”

        UMass took its first lead, 33-32, on a pair of free throws by Rhymer less than a minute into the second half.

        A short jumper and a free throw by Rhymer gave the Minutemen their biggest lead, 41-36, early in the second half. But Temple went on 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Wadley that made it 45-41.

        “The idea was to get the ball inside and kick it out,” UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. “We knew they'd do everything to take care of Mack. We tried to go inside to other guys to make plays.”

        Wadley and Greer nailed consecutive 3-pointers to give the Owls a 21-9 lead midway through the first half.

        UMass didn't reach double digits until more than 10 minutes into the game, but closed the first half with a 12-2 run that cut it to 32-31.

        The usually irascible Chaney appeared subdued throughout the game, sitting on his chair, holding his hands and shaking his head. Chaney finally celebrated by cutting down the nets after the victory.

        Then Chaney turned his attention to chastising critics who didn't think Temple would reach the NCAA tournament.

        “In all my years here, I tried to keep the toughest schedule,” Chaney said. “It helped with recruiting, got us television exposure. It wasn't until this year that somebody said they only won one of those games against the tough opponents. That became the song for all the talking heads. That's unfortunate.”

        Temple has reached the NCAA tournament in 17 of Chaney's 18 seasons.

        UMass, which started 2-9, likely will miss the NCAA tournament for the third straight season under Flint, who took over in 1996 when John Calipari left for the NBA.

        “I think we'll be playing next week,” Flint said about a possible berth in the NIT.

        Flint, a non-stop talker, was unusually quiet in the first half, but stormed down the sideline and had to be restrained by assistants after a technical foul on Rhymer with 9:47 left.

        “That was the turning point of the game,” he said. “It was a five-point play.”

       



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