ATLANTIC CITY – Temple is held to a higher standard than it was several seasons ago.
The 24th-ranked Owls (25-6) no longer get praised for blowing out teams everyone expected them to beat. And whenever they beat teams with losing records, we highlight the fact that they did just that: beat a losing team.
Well, Temple did both in Friday’s Atlantic Ten Tournament quarterfinal round here at Boardwalk Hall.
But the Owls 96-76 victory over a 15-18 La Salle squad was still extremely impressive. It was arguably Temple’s best performance of the season.
Never mind that it played without two starters in center Micheal Eric (season-ending right knee injury) and swingman Scootie Randall (right foot injury). It can be argued that the Owls are playing their best basketball of the season heading into Saturday’s tourney semifinal against Richmond at Boardwalk Hall.
Power forward Lavoy Allen and point guard Juan Fernandez – regarded as the team’s best players – are over their slumps. Swingman Aaron Brown and forward Rahlir Jefferson are filling in nicely for Randall and Eric in the starting lineup. Guards Khalif Wyatt and T.J. DiLeo are excelling in their reserve roles, while shooting guard Ramone Moore continues to lead the team in scoring.
“I love the team,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “They’ve shown great resiliency. If you said to me ‘You could have Scootie and Mike Eric back again’ that would be great.
“But they have found a way to get things done, and I’m very proud of them for that. Guys have come off the bench and stepped up.”
Brown finding his groove: As the A-10’s most improved player, Randall was the team’s hottest player before missing the last six games with his injury. While Brown isn’t the playmaker that Randall is, the freshman is producing.
He finished with a career-best 14 points while playing a career-high 34 minutes against La Salle.
“I thought he was terrific,” Dunphy said. “He battled on the defensive end and did the best he could. He made a couple of big shots for us late in the game. I am proud of him, and he has done a good job all season long.”
Bring on Richmond: Saturday’s semifinal matchup will mark Temple’s second meeting against Richmond (25-7) this season.
The Owls thumped the Spiders, 73-53, on Feb. 17 at the Liacouras Center.
That night, Moore made 4 of 5 three-point attempts en route to scoring a game-high 24 points. Fernandez added 20 points on 9 of 10 shooting from the field, while Randall chipped in 10. Richmond’s standout forward Justin Harper had 14 points. However, the senior’s double-digit performance was bit a misleading. He was held to four points after intermission on 2-for-8 shooting.
Here’s a look at the probable starters with their regular-season statistics.
24 Lavoy Allen F 6-9 Sr. 11.8 ppg. 8.2 rpg.
32 Rahlir Jefferson F 6-6 So. 5.9 ppg. 5.3 rpg.
22 Aaron Brown G 6-5 Fr. 2.8 ppg. 0.9 rpg.
23 Ramone Moore G 6-4 Jr.. 14.8 ppg. 4.3 rpg.
4 Juan Fernandez G 6-4 Jr. 10.5 ppg. 2.8 rpg.
14 Kevin Anderson G 6-0 Sr. 16 ppg, 3.4 apg.
3 Darien Brothers G 6-3 So. 8.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg.
12 Kevin Smith F 6-5 Sr. 4 ppg, 3.8 rpg.
32 Justin Harper F 6-10 Sr. 18 ppg, 6.8 rpg.
41 Dan Geriot C 6-9, 230, Sr. 10.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg.