INDIANAPOLIS – In a split second, T.J. DiLeo’s emotions morphed from overjoyed to being disheartened.
Making his third career start, the Temple point guard appeared capable of producing a standout performance. The graduate student had two assists in the first two minutes, 23 seconds of Saturday’s 83-71 setback to ninth-ranked Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Seconds later, DiLeo suffered a game-ending righ high-ankle sprain while defending Bulldogs guard Rotnei Clarke.
“We tried to deny Clarke the ball,” said DiLeo, who wore a walking boot after the game. “He cut back the other direction. I tried to plant and cut the other direction and my ankle just rolled over to the outside. I knew right away that something was not good.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder wanted desperately to return after having his ankle taped.
“If I could have tried to get back in there, I would have,” he said. “I was struggling walking.
“It’s tough knowing that you want to be out there, and knowing that you can’t be. It’s one of the toughest feelings.”
The injury was disappointing for an additional reason.
This game was a chance for DiLeo to prove that he’s capable of being Temple’s starting point guard. He has outplayed Will Cummings, the normal starter, most of the season And DiLeo, not Cummings, usually gets minutes late in games.
Now, his availability for Wednesday’s home game against Richmond is unknown. DiLeo will be evaluated when Temple returns to Philadelphia on Sunday.
“I feel very badly for him,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “He’s a tremendous kid and a great player. And again, a great teammate, and to not have him out there is difficult to watch.”