Temple Owls

The Fran Dunphy era ends as Temple falls to Belmont in First Four of NCAA Tournament

usa_fran_dunphy_temple.jpg
USA Today Images

The Fran Dunphy era ends as Temple falls to Belmont in First Four of NCAA Tournament

Updated: 1:31 a.m. 

DAYTON, Ohio — A few seconds were still left on the clock when Fran Dunphy headed to midcourt for his final postgame handshake, the outcome long decided. Belmont was simply too much for his Owls.

Nobody else in the NCAA Tournament is excited to face their efficient offense, either.

Kevin McClain scored 29 points and led the decisive second-half run as Belmont got its first NCAA Tournament win, pulling away to an 81-70 victory Tuesday night and ending Dunphy's career in the First Four.

The 11th-seeded Bruins (27-5) play Maryland on Thursday in the East Region.

"We belong in this tournament," said McClain, who finished two points shy of his career high. "You can see that."

Belmont got an at-large bid after losing to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title game. The Bruins showed the selection committee's faith was not misplaced, getting the breakthrough win on their eighth try.

"I think that they can play in this atmosphere and this is important," coach Rick Byrd said. "I didn't think many times we played well, or knew what we were in offensively, but they found a way to win. And you never play perfect, and I think they've got some toughness about them."

The loss sent Temple (23-10) into a transition. Dunphy is retiring after his 13th season at Temple, where he replaced John Chaney. Dunphy previously coached 17 seasons at Penn.

"The game of basketball has given me way more than I have given to it," Dunphy said.

He was hoping to coach another day, but Belmont's high-scoring offense pulled away at the end. Senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. led the Owls with 21 points.

"That team is smart," Alston said. "They only do what they're good at."

The Bruins entered the tournament second in the nation at 87.4 points per game. The Owls' aim was to slow the high-percentage offense just enough to give themselves a chance. Temple hung in during a first half that featured five lead changes and ended with Belmont ahead 37-31.

The Bruins pushed their lead to 11 points by hitting their first two shots in the second half. Alston, who led the American Athletic Conference at 19.7 points per game, hit three 3-pointers as the Owls surged ahead 50-46. Alston has been the Owls' catalyst, scoring at least 20 points in each of his last nine games.

McClain led a 16-3 run that put Belmont ahead to stay. McClain finished two points shy of his career high.

The Bruins' balanced offense had more than enough even though leading scorer Dylan Windler was held to five points on 2-of-7 shooting, matching his season low. Windler came in averaging 21.4 points.

Big picture 
Temple: Former Owls star Aaron McKie takes over for Dunphy. McKie is an assistant on Dunphy's staff. The Owls haven't won an NCAA Tournament game since 2013, when they beat N.C. State at Dayton before losing in the second round. They went 2-8 in eight appearances under Dunphy.

Belmont: The Bruins got only the second at-large NCAA Tournament bid in Ohio Valley Conference history, along with Middle Tennessee in 1987. They'd dropped their seven appearances when they had automatic bids.

Tourney history 
Temple's last NCAA Tournament win was in 2013 over N.C. State in Dayton. The Owls are 33-33 all-time in the tournament.

Belmont is making its eighth NCAA appearance since 2006. Its closest previous brush with a victory was a one-point loss to Duke in 2008.

Moose tracks
Six-foot-11 freshman center Nick Muszynski missed the OVC title game with a sprained left ankle, injured the previous game. Muszynski, whose nickname is Moose, started Tuesday and had 16 points and four rebounds. He wore a protective boot after the game.

"I thought he played terrific," Byrd said. "We just didn't know what we were going to get. Frankly, yesterday in practice he didn't look very good at all. But he really showed a lot today."

Philly fewer 
Philadelphia's Big 5 rivalry lost two of its longtime coaches Tuesday. In addition to Dunphy heading into retirement, Saint Joseph's fired Phil Martelli after his 24th season.

No stage fright 
The crowd at University of Dayton Arena was 11,874, the second-largest Belmont has played in front of this season. The high was 14,804 at Mackey Arena on Dec. 29, when Belmont lost to Purdue 73-62.

Up next 
Belmont heads to Jacksonville, Florida, for its game against Maryland.

Celebrating Temple upset Kansas and a sad friend was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

ap-temple-courtstorm2-kansas.jpg
AP Images

Celebrating Temple upset Kansas and a sad friend was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

I don’t go to a lot of games. I never did. I can’t even think of the last postseason game I saw live, which accounts for many of these strolls down memory lane. 

So while reading some of my colleagues write about the best game they’ve ever been to, I couldn’t really relate. I remember where I was when DeSean Jackson returned that punt or when Vince Carter’s baseline jumper bounced off the rim, but it wasn’t in the building to witness it.

So here it is. The best game I ever saw live was in December of 2014. I was a couple years out of college and my alma mater Temple University was hosting Kansas. A friend of mine is a gigantic Kansas fan and got tickets to see his beloved Jayhawks make light work of the Owls. He invited me and, with extremely low expectations, I joined him. 

Kansas, like always, was a top-10 team at the time. The Owls were 7-4. No. 4 Duke and No. 7 Villanova had housed Temple earlier in the season, each loss by 20 points. My friend, along with more than half of the crowd wearing blue, was treating this like an exhibition game. It was a chance to see Frank Mason and Kelly Oubre and Perry Ellis (in what I believe was his seventh season at Kansas) put on a show.

They did not.

Temple scored the first basket and never looked back. A Will Cummings three-pointer made it 12-2 before we could take off our coats. Midway through the first half, Devin Coleman came up with a steal leading to a Jaylen Bond dunk and it was 22-10. Timeout Kansas. Basketball is a game of runs and the tide can turn quickly, especially at the college level, so the Kansas crowd remained calm.  My friend was annoyed by his team’s start but panic had yet to set in.

I was all smiles. This was fun.

Temple took a 10-point lead into the half. That was nothing for a blue-blooded squad like KU. In the second half, the better team will emerge, my friend mumbled to himself.

But the second half was much more of the same. Temple was hitting everything and by the under-12 timeout the lead had swelled to 17. The Owls shot 58 percent from the field, compared to an abysmal 32 percent by Kansas. A few minutes later, Jesse Morgan knocked down a three and it was Temple, yes Temple, who held a 20-point lead. Timeout Kansas.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the game. I spent most of the night watching the joy evaporate from my friend’s face and taunting the surrounding Kansas fans looking on in disgust. The final seconds ticked away on a 77-52 blowout and the student section stormed the court. Did I join it? You bet I did. I remember being on the court, surrounded by kids acting like it was time to cut down the nets. And I remember looking to the section where we were sitting and seeing my poor friend who just wanted to go home, standing alone looking so very sad. It was the best.

Maybe my behavior was petty at the time and maybe reliving it now is too. But hey, I don’t go to a lot of games.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

Turnovers, poor 3-point shooting hurt Temple in loss to Missouri

usa_nate_pierre_louis_temple-_basketball.jpg
USA Today Images

Turnovers, poor 3-point shooting hurt Temple in loss to Missouri

BOX SCORE 

PHILADELPHIA — For Dru Smith and Missouri, it’s been hard not to dwell on a stunning home loss to Charleston Southern earlier this week.

Only thing to do was take it out on the next team on the schedule.

Javon Pickett scored a season-high 16 points off the bench and Missouri snapped a three-game losing streak, beating Temple 64-54 on Saturday night.

Smith added 12 points and six rebounds for the visiting Tigers (5-4), whose loss to Charleston Southern on Tuesday was one of the worst of coach Cuonzo Martin’s tenure.

“Obviously it’s been on our minds,” Smith said. “It’s something we had to learn from. We had to move on. There’s a lot of season left in front of us. I think we did a good job today using that as fuel and coming out and playing much better.”

Quinton Rose led the way for Temple (6-2) with 16 points, 10 of which came in the first half. The Owls committed a season-high 19 turnovers, including an overthrown pass in transition with a minute to go to dash any comeback hopes. They also shot 2 for 21 from 3-point range.

“They didn’t really pressure us; we were just careless with the ball,” Rose said. “Maybe it is a lack of focus. We’ll figure it out.”

Trailing by six early in the second half, the Owls reeled off the next 12 points to take their first lead since they were up 4-2. The run began with a Monty Scott 3-pointer and included a Jake Forrester dunk that electrified a previously frustrated Liacouras Center crowd.

Forrester, an Indiana transfer who had to sit out the first four games until getting cleared to play by the NCAA, finished with 11 points in his first home game for the Owls.

Pickett helped Missouri fight back to tie the game at 47-47 with eight minutes remaining, and the Tigers took the lead 53-52 on a Jeremiah Tillman transition dunk with four minutes to go. Mark Smith’s 3-pointer put the Tigers ahead 57-52 with 2:53 left, and Xavier Pinson helped close out the win with a driving layup in the final minute.

The Tigers outscored the Owls 15-2 over the final six-and-a-half minutes.

“I think we’re as good as any team in the SEC,” Martin said. “But you have to do it on the floor every night. It’s one thing for me to believe it. They have to understand and believe it. And this was a great win for us against a very talented team.”

Temple had more turnovers (11) than made field goals (eight) in the first half to fall behind 33-27 at halftime. No one on the Owls besides Rose scored until Forrester hit a free throw more than eight minutes into the contest.

Can't open the Pickett fence 

Martin credited Pickett for putting the defensive clamps on Rose, Temple’s top scorer, in the second half.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if he spends 10 years in the NBA,” the Missouri coach said of Rose. “And I thought Javon really embraced that challenge. He’s not an easy guy to defend.”

Martin also praised the energy Pickett brings off the bench, which is a role the sophomore says has helped him.

“I feel more relaxed,” said Pickett, who started 31 games as a freshman last season. “Coach all the time is telling me to be myself. I feel like I’m starting to be myself more.”

Big picture

Missouri: The Tigers avoided the slow starts that had been plaguing them, leading for most of the first half before staging their winning rally midway through the second half. They also scored a measure of revenge on an Owls squad that beat them in a thriller last year at Mizzou Arena, 79-77.

Temple: Despite Saturday’s setback, the Owls are showing promise under first-year coach Aaron McKie, who replaced Fran Dunphy. Their only losses have come to power conference teams, No. 3 Maryland and now Missouri, while they’ve beaten another Southeastern Conference squad, Texas A&M, and also Southern California on the road.

Up next 

Missouri: The Tigers return home to face Southern Illinois on Dec. 15.

Temple: The Owls host Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday in one of Philadelphia’s most intense rivalry games.