Thursday, December 25, 2014

It's Owl Over

Temple hung around against Arizona State on Friday, limited the Sun Devils' leading scorer, James Harden, most of the game, but weren't able to ever hold a lead in the Owls' 66-57 first-round loss in Miami.

It's Owl Over

Temple hung around against Arizona State on Friday, limited the Sun Devils' leading scorer, James Harden, most of the game, but weren't able to ever hold a lead in the Owls' 66-57 first-round loss in Miami.

The mathematics got to them in the end. The Owls shot just 37.3 percent from the field, compared to 51.3 percent for the Sun Devils. Turnovers and rebounds were even, Arizona State was given a few more free throw attempts and there is really no way to make those numbers come out to anything but a loss.

It was a low-possession game, just 60 possessions for each team. ASU scored better than a point per possession, which is pretty much the dividing line for offensive efficiency. Owls were 11-for-35 (31.4 percent) in shots not taken by Dionte Christmas. It was curious that Juan Fernandez got just six minutes for Temple, while Semaj Inge (0-for-10) got 36 minutes, but Inge played excellent defense and that -- along with some foul trouble for Fernandez -- probably kept him on the court.

The Owls were classy in defeat, and for a team that was far from a lock to even make the tournament, it was still a successful season. Here's the postgame press conference transcript, as supplied by the NCAA and ASAP Sports:

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 COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Certainly want to congratulate Arizona State. I thought that they played very well. They have a good plan, and I thought that Glasser was just terrific in that first half. I would rather have not seen that first jumper go that hit the back of the rim and just kind of curled in the basket, but he made some really tough shots. He made great decisions. I thought he was the key in the first half. Pendergraph had a very solid game as you have come to appreciate about him.
I thought for us we had our moments. We had our looks. We did not take advantage of it, as we need to in a game of this magnitude and in this stage, on this stage. But again, congratulate Arizona State, and for us, we need to gather again. We'll gather next week and kind of critique the season and appreciate Dionte Christmas and Semaj and Sergio Olmos, and thank them for their great careers, and then the rest of us will move on to try to get back here again, which is not an easy task.

Q. Dionte, I think your last shot you took was around the five-minute mark. It was a three-pointer which could have tied the score. You didn't get another shot attempt from that point on. Were they doing something differently at that point to prevent you from getting a shot off?
DIONTE CHRISTMAS: Yeah, I thought those guys paid a little bit more attention than they were in the beginning of the game, especially since we were only down three and the game was a little bit close, so I thought those guys were switching off more aggressively on me and just paying a little bit more attention. But I thought as a result of that, my teammates got a lot of open shots, and that's when Lavoy started to get it going and Ryan Brooks. So that kind of opened things up a little bit more for us.

Q. Ryan, can you talk about going against Harden and what you guys did against him? Were you surprised you had so much success? Were you surprised you didn't see more from him?
RYAN BROOKS: I don't think necessarily we were surprised. I think down the stretch there we've built a lot of confidence in our defensive play, and we're just ready to step up to the challenge. But watching a lot of film and watching him these past couple days, he's a great player and just lets the game come to him, doesn't force anything, rarely forces the issue.
We just wanted to stay solid on him, know where he was out on the court, and if situations presented themselves, just step up and help and just recover it as good as we could. I thought we did a pretty good job on him.

Q. Dionte, when you played this out in your head before the game, if you had known that Ryan would do such a good job on Brooks and if you would have known you were going to put up the numbers you did, you would have thought you would have won probably, right?
DIONTE CHRISTMAS: Yeah, that sounds about right. But like Coach says, Pendergraph is a great player. Glasser is a great player. That's what makes them a good team, because they're more than just James Harden. I thought James Harden down the stretch did a great job of creating for himself and creating the plays, but on the other hand I thought Ryan Brooks did a tremendous job on him throughout the game. He shot 1-for-8. If you would have told us that James Harden would have ended up with nine points and I would have had 20 points and we lost the game, I would have thought you were crazy.
But I thought it was a hard fought game and I thought both teams played to the best of their abilities.

Q. Ryan was talking about the defensive effort you had today and you did a lot good defensively. I don't think they had an offensive rebound in the first half. It always seemed like they were able to find a shot when they needed to sort of stem a run by you guys. It's just one of those things that they had the rolls and you didn't today?
DIONTE CHRISTMAS: Well, Pendergraph leads the country in field-goal percentage, and he makes a lot of tough shots. I thought he did a great job today, especially when the time was right and they did a great job of getting him the ball, and I thought good position on Lavoy and Serge. I thought Lavoy and Serge did a great job, as well, but I thought he did a great job at making some shots. He's definitely a great leader for that program, and he did a great job today I thought. But when the shot clock went down, I thought they did a great job just getting Pendergraph the ball and making tough shots. I thought we did a great job of contesting and just getting a hand in those guys' face but they did a great job of just making a lot of tough shots today.

Q. Coach, what was your assessment of the way things went offensively down the stretch for you?
COACH FRAN DUNPHY: I thought we had a couple of really great looks, the ball just did not go in the basket. Semaj took it to the basket one time and Lavoy got a great offensive rebound. I thought he was gonna make that stick-back. I thought we had some very good looks at the basket, it just didn't happen for us. Some of that is us and some of that is Arizona State.

Q. Ryan, you looked like you got a little frustrated toward the end of the game when Harden started getting some calls. Did you feel like your defense changed at all at that point or do you feel like maybe he was doing a better job of getting calls?
RYAN BROOKS: I don't want to place the game in the refs' hands and go to the refs for calls, but I think that one stretch you're talking about is down the stretch, I thought I did a good job and possibly got a five-second call, trying to work hard to get position, and I thought I was there. But the ref thought otherwise and made the call that he thought was the right call.
You know, it's over now, we've just got to move on. But I thought it still was an all-around good team effort and just didn't come out with the win.

Q. Dionte, kind of a similar question: Did you get any explanation what they saw on that travel, on the call?
DIONTE CHRISTMAS: No, like he said, we're trying not to put the game in the ref's hands. If that's what the ref saw, that's what he saw. You can't go back and change the call. If the ref saw a walk, then obviously it was a walk. But sometimes it comes down to that.

Q. Dionte, your last game now, three years at Temple. Could you sum it up for us?
DIONTE CHRISTMAS: Great, man. It was great, a lot of good memories, especially under Coach Dunphy. Coach Dunphy has taught me a lot about just life in general, not just about basketball. It's just been a fun time while I was here. I got two Atlantic 10 championships, two NCAA appearances. There are not too many people that can say that. It went by so fast.
And I was just telling the young guys, you've got to cherish every moment at Temple because it goes by so fast. These games, I mean, it felt like I was just at orientation last week. These last three years, man, has been great, man, the best three years of my life.
LARRY WAHL: We'll have questions for Coach Dunphy. Thank you, guys.

Q. With the way Semaj was shooting, did you feel like maybe you could get Juan more minutes, or were you afraid of giving up something on the defensive end with Juan in there?
COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Semaj tried to make some difficult shots, didn't come up with them, but he is a solid performer defensively. I thought his pressure on Glasser was something that got us back to where we needed to be in the second half. So that was certainly a concern.

Q. You went to zone. I think they got up to nine and you called a time-out and you came out in zone, and it looked like the game started to come your way a lot, right? Would you agree with that?
COACH FRAN DUNPHY: I agree. I think zone helped us in the first half of the game. But that got us back to where we needed to be. I think they had -- they were up 13 at one point in the first half, and we got it back to -- might have gotten it back to three, and then Glasser made two huge jump shots at the end of the first half.
But I would agree, zone helped us.

Q. The way they played defense and the way you guys can play defense yourself, did you anticipate a low-possession game like this? And what did that mean in terms of your shot selection that you were going to need to have?
COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Well, again, I'll be anxious to watch the film and see how many -- I thought early in the second half we had a number of really good looks that didn't happen for us. I did think it would be a low-scoring game just because they make you work on -- when we're on offense and they are not a team that runs it up and down the floor when they're on offense.

Q. Dionte's career is over, and he lost obviously the game, but he had quite a performance. I'm sure there were a lot of pro scouts in this arena that got a pretty good look at a guy who can probably play at the next level. Would you agree?
COACH FRAN DUNPHY: Well, he certainly had a fabulous career. And as far as the pro scouts are concerned, they watch so many of our games, they watch so much film, that while he had a terrific game today, I don't think it was a situation where they're all of a sudden going to say, well, Dionte Christmas has moved himself into this position. As far as they are concerned, I think he's already established himself as a player that they are looking at very carefully and closely, and I was proud of him today, but I've been proud of him for the last three years. It's a remarkable career that he has had, no question about it.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you, Coach.

Bob Ford Inquirer Sports Columnist
About this blog
Bob Ford has been writing about Philadelphia sports since 1981, and is still trying to figure it all out. A former beat writer covering the Phillies and the 76ers, Ford became a general sports columnist for the Inquirer in 2003, following in and occasionally falling in the deep footsteps of Bill Lyon, Frank Dolson and many distinguished others. He comes to the Philly.com blogosphere after award-winning success as designer/editor of the fabulous Pen & Pencil Club softball blog. Likes: Palestra, inside-the-park home runs, sunny days. Dislikes: phony people, cloudy days, rewrites. Reach Bob at bford@phillynews.com.

Bob Ford Inquirer Sports Columnist
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