Saturday, March 15, 2003

Temple surprises sloppy Musketeers

Poor shooting, turnovers finish A-10 Tourney run

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Lionel Chalmers reacts to losing Friday night.
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
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DAYTON - Xavier's two-year run of Atlantic 10 dominance and its hope to repeat as conference tournament champions went down Friday night in a surprising loss to Temple in the semifinals.

Six days after scoring 96 points against the Owls, Xavier never got on track offensively and shot 38 percent with 20 turnovers in a 63-57 loss that ended No. 10 Xavier's school-record 16-game winning streak.

It was a shocking setback for Xavier, which hadn't lost since Jan. 7, and defeated Temple (15-14) by 31 points March 1 at Cintas Center. Xavier made 14 3-pointers in that game and had 26 assists. Friday, Xavier made a total of 19 field goals and gave up 26 points on turnovers.

Coach Thad Matta reacts to a referee's call.
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Temple coach John Chaney said his team's defense was too spread out last week, and Friday he emphasized that his players close the middle of the lane on defense, which kept the ball away from Xavier's All-American, David West. "I told them don't follow outside," Chaney said. "Stay tight."

It worked because West scored 12 points, eight below his average, and had just four at halftime, all on free throws. He finished 3-of-7 from the field. It also worked because, unlike last week, Xavier struggled to make outside shots.

"Tonight we didn't make shots," Xavier coach Thad Matta said.

Xavier didn't take care of the ball, either. The 20 turnovers were a season high. Lionel Chalmers committed nine.

"That's not the way we play," West said. "We just didn't get the ball moving, and we were trying to thread the needle too much."

David West looks for a teammate to pass to after grabbing a rebound.
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Despite the turnovers, Xavier still led 26-23 at the half and had a chance to come back in the end. The Musketeers (25-5) cut a seven-point deficit to four, 52-48, when Romain Sato hit a 3-pointer with 3:06 left.

But Temple was too strong offensively. Brian Polk answered Sato's 3 with one of his own and then hit a jumper after Chalmers made a 3-pointer. With 1:33 left, Chalmers tried to force a pass that was stolen, and Maurice Collins made a 3-pointer that gave Temple a 60-51 lead with 58 seconds.

Sato made two more 3-pointers and finished with 16 points, but Xavier, which missed two more 3-point attempts in the waning seconds, ran out of time.

Anthony Myles muscles a rebound.
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"We didn't play worth a damn tonight," Matta said. "Credit Temple, though. Their defense had something to do with it. They outplayed us. We just have to regroup now."

Xavier won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title for the second straight year with a 15-1 record, and looked to win its second consecutive tournament championship as well. But Xavier hasn't played its best basketball in the last month and won four straight games in February either by one point or in overtime.

Polk led all players with 22 points and was followed by David Hawkins, who scored 21.

Hawkins said some remarks made by West at the conference's award banquet Wednesday night motivated Temple. West accepted his Player of the Year Award, and mentioned that it was nice to have but that Xavier was there to win the championship.

Chalmers stumbles but keeps control of the ball.
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"Nobody liked that comment," Hawkins said. "He just came out and said that like we were going to give it (the championship) to them."

Temple did anything but that, taking every opportunity to run on Xavier, outscoring XU 11-2 on fast-break points. The Owls' ability to match late-game shots was something XU hadn't seen in its close wins.

"It's very disappointing," Chalmers said. "We wanted to win the whole thing. But we'll be ready come NCAA Tournament time."



Halftime: Xavier 26-23. 3-point goals-Temple 8-24 (Polk 4-10, Wesby 0-3, Collins 2-7, Hawkins 2-4); Xavier 11-28 (Sato 4-9, West 0-1, Chalmers 4-10, Finn 3-8). Technical fouls-None.

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