TUCSON, Ariz. – Yes, this was Juan Fernandez’s biggest shot at Temple.
The junior guard even admits that he enjoyed watching highlights of his game-winner on ESPN.
“But, you know, that shot was big [Thursday],” Fernandez said of his basket with 0.4 seconds left that gave Temple a 66-64 NCAA tournament second-round victory over Penn State.
“We already celebrated,” he added. “There’s not too much you can do about it, now. We just got to win” Saturday.
That’s when the seventh-seeded Owls (26-7) face second-seeded San Diego State (33-2) in a West Regional third-round matchup at the McKale Center. The winner advances to meet the winner of Saturday’s Connecticut vs. Cincinnati game in next weekend’s Sweet 16 round in Anaheim, Calif.
“Well, I think we’re going to try to base our game on our defense and defensive rebounds first,” he said of the game plan against the Aztecs. “And then, you know, I don’t know what kind of teams they play, but, we like to share the ball and try to find the open man, not just play through one guy.”
As a result, Temple has five players with double-figure scoring averages.
Junior guard Ramone Moore averages a team-leading 15.2 points. Senior power forward Lavoy Allen averaged 11.6 points to go with 8.5 rebounds. Fernandez averages 11.1 points. So does junior swingman Scootie Randall, who will play in his second consecutive game after missing seven with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Sophomore guard Khalif Wyatt, the Atlantic Ten’s sixth man of the year, averages 10 points.
The Owls are facing an Aztecs squad that has won six straight and 13 of their last 15 games. San Diego State is led by sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard, who averaged a team-leading 15.6 points and 10.6 rebounds.
-- Keith Pompey