Temple faces Arizona State

Temple men's basketball team members rejoice Sunday after learning they will play Arizona State in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

Temple knew it was heading back to the NCAA Tournament, but the Owls had to wait until the very last slot was announced tonight to find out the particulars.

The 11th-seeded Owls (22-11) will face No. 6 seed Arizona State (24-9) on Friday in Miami in a South Region first-round game. Tipoff will be at 2:45 and will be on CBS-3 and WPHT (1210-AM).

The winner faces either Syracuse or Stephen F. Austin on Sunday.

The Owls secured their second consecutive Atlantic 10 Tournament title and second consecutive automatic NCAA Tournament berth under Fran Dunphy with a 69-64 victory over Duquesne on Saturday night.

They defeated Saint Joseph’s by the same score last year before losing to Michigan State, 72-61, in the first round of the NCAAs.

For the Owls, the chance to remain on the East Coast was welcome. Last year, they traveled to Denver and ended up playing in the first game, at 10:30 a.m. local time.

"That was nuts. We were too far outside the city," Dunphy said. "I was complaining the whole time. Now I have no complaints. Just shut up and just play the game. My one complaint is that we have to play a team as good as Arizona State."

The A-10 championship is the Owls’ eighth overall, the most in the league. They are the first team to repeat as A-10 champions since Hall of Fame coach John Chaney led them to back-to-back titles in 2000 and ’01.

Senior guard Dionte Christmas also repeated as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer. He scored 29 points, the most since the 27 he dropped against Rhode Island on Jan. 27, and tied an A-10 championship record with seven 3-pointers. Saturday’s outing followed up Christmas’ performance Friday night against No. 19 Xavier, when he scored 20 points and hit two three-pointers within 30 seconds of each other during the final 2 minutes to lead the Owls to a 55-53 semifinal victory. With those 3’s, the senior vaulted into first place all-time in three-pointers made in Temple history.

Prior to those games, Christmas had been mired in a semi-slump, scoring only seven and nine points, respectively, in a quarterfinal victory over St. Joe’s and the regular-season finale against George Washington.

"Going into this year, we know what we got to do and we know what it takes to win," Christmas said. "Last year we had a lot of distractions. We weren't really prepared for all the things that were presented to us going out to Denver."

Senior center Sergio Olmos and junior guard Ryan Brooks each added 14 points in Saturday’s game, and sophomore forward Lavoy Allen had his 13th double-double of the season, with 10 points and 14 rebounds.




Here is some information about Arizona State:

Last NCAA: 2003, Lost in second round to Arizona, 108-76.
Head Coach: Herb Sendek.

Probable Starters
Derek Glasser, G, 6-1, Jr., 8.0 pts., 2.0 reb., 37.1 FG%, 84.8 FT%
Ty Abbott, G, 6-3, So., 6.3, 4.1, 34.0, 66.7
James Harden, G, 6-5, So., 20.8, 5.4, 50.4, 75.2
Rihards Kuksiks, G-F, 6-6, So., 10.8, 4.0, 45.9, 75.0
Jeff Pendergraph, F, 6-9, Sr., 14.4, 8.5, 66.5, 77.2
Other Key Players
Jamelle McMillan, G, 6-1, So., 5.0, 2.1, 42.3, 57.9
Jerren Shipp, G, 6-3, Jr., 2.9, 1.6, 42.6, 66.7

About the Sun Devils: It is the first time they’ve had back-to-back 20-win seasons since 1979-80 and ’80-81 ... Pendergraph has started 118 games, which is a school record ... Sendek graduated summa cum laude from Carnegie-Mellon in 1985 ... They are a very good shooting team, hitting 48% from the floor and 74% from the foul line ... Harden is the real deal, a first team all-American by The Sporting News ... Shipp’s older brother Josh plays for UCLA ... This team was just 8-22, including 2-16 in the conference in Sendek’s first year (2006-07) ... In the past eight seasons, including time at North Carolina State, Sendek teams have defeated seven of the past nine NCAA champions.