Temple Owls

Shizz Alston's career night vs. UConn helps keep Temple's NCAA tournament at-large hopes alive

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Shizz Alston's career night vs. UConn helps keep Temple's NCAA tournament at-large hopes alive

BOX SCORE 

STORRS, Conn. — Shizz Alston Jr. told himself he wasn't going to let Temple's NCAA tournament bubble burst against UConn.

The senior scored a career-high 34 points, leading the Owls back from a six-point second-half deficit to a 78-71 road win on Thursday and keeping their hopes alive for an at-large tournament berth.

Alston hit 12 of his 14 shots from the floor and was 4 of 5 from behind the arc for Temple (22-8, 12-5 American), which had beaten the Huskies by 18 points in Philadelphia in January.

"I just wasn't going to let us lose," Alston said. "I knew if we kept pace with them, we could pull it out in the end, but I never wanted them to get separation, because they're a dangerous home team."

Quinton Rose added 20 points for Temple, which secured a bye in the first round of next week's conference tournament.

Christian Vital had 26 points off the bench for UConn (14-16, 5-12), which lost for the first time this season at Gampel Pavilion. Josh Carlton added 21 points in a losing effort.

UConn trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, but came back to take its first lead five minutes into the second half on a long 3-pointer from Tyler Polley.

Carlton brought the crowd to its feet with a dunk off a spin move, part of a run that saw UConn go up 53-47.

The Huskies led 58-56 when Alterique Gilbert, their point guard, took an elbow to the face and had to be taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Vital said that took the air out of both the team and the arena.

"He's one of our best players," Vital said. "Clearly, whenever you have one of your better players go down, it's going to disrupt the team, especially in the second half. We had our flow going."

A steal and dunk from Alston put Temple up 65-60 and the Owls hit their free throws down the stretch to hang on.

"He made some big, big baskets tonight," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who was coaching his final regular-season road game. "He's not a dunker, but I'm sure he felt he had great legs about him on that play."

Big picture 
Temple: The Owls have won five of their last six to join Houston, Cincinnati and UCF with tournament byes.

UConn: The Huskies finish the regular-season 8-1 at Gampel Pavilion. They are 6-15 on all other courts. UConn will have to win this weekend and take at least two games in the conference tournament to avoid a third straight losing season.

"This is what it should look like in year one of what we've gotta do around here, rebuild this thing," said UConn coach Dan Hurley.

Stats of the night 
Temple shot 49 percent from the floor, hit 7 of 12 shots from 3-point range and made 17 of 20 free throws.

Moving up the charts 
Alston's four 3-pointers gives him 89 this season, tying him with Mike Vreeswyk for fifth place on the program's single-season list. His 589 points this season ranks 20th in program history.

Better from distance 
The Huskies, who missed all 15 shots from behind the arc against USF on Sunday, missed their first two in this one. The streak ended with a long 3-pointer from Christian Vital that gave UConn its first points. He ended up hitting seven of 11 3-point shots and the team was 10 of 29 from long distance.

Up next 
Temple: The Owls close the regular season at home on Saturday with a showdown against UCF, which came into Thursday 12-4 in the conference.

UConn: UConn wraps up the season at East Carolina on Sunday.

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

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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.

NCAA Tournament: Temple makes the field, will face Belmont in Fran Dunphy's final dance

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NCAA Tournament: Temple makes the field, will face Belmont in Fran Dunphy's final dance

East Region | West Region | Midwest Region | South Region

Printable bracket with game times

WASHINGTON — Zion's path to the Final Four goes through the nation's capital.

Zion Williamson and Duke are headed to DC after they were awarded the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils sit atop the East Region, and their road to Minneapolis could include matchups with ACC rival Virginia Tech — which beat Duke without Zion — and Big Ten champion Michigan State.

But with Williamson and fellow freshman R.J. Barrett on their games, it's worth wondering who will be able to keep up with the ACC Tournament champions.

"It's tough to determine what our potential is," coach Mike Krzyzewski said Saturday. "I just want to have us play as good as we possibly can play right now. ... I hope we're in this tournament for a long time — that will make us even better."

Fifth-ranked Duke's top competition in the East comes from second-seeded Michigan State — which lost forward Kyle Ahrens to a left leg injury in the Big Ten title game Sunday — third-seeded LSU and fourth-seeded Virginia Tech. The Hokies beat Duke 77-72 on Feb. 26 after Williamson's foot injury against North Carolina.

The Blue Devils (29-5) haven't lost since Williamson returned, rolling through the ACC tourney by beating Syracuse, North Carolina and Florida State.

Krzyzewski hopes center Marques Bolden returns at some point in the tournament, which would give his team even more post depth to handle the likes of Michigan State if it came to that in the Elite Eight.

Duke opens the NCAA Tournament in Columbia, South Carolina, against the 16th-seeded winner of the First Four game between North Carolina Central and North Dakota State. A year after UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed when it beat Virginia, Krzyzewski knows not to overlook anyone.

"What I've learned along the way is not to be satisfied, not to rationalize," he said, "Because in these tough moments, rationalization can be the biggest opponent that you have at times."

Assuming Duke gets through the first round, eighth-seeded VCU or ninth-seeded UCF will be waiting. VCU star point guard Marcus Evans injured his left knee in the Atlantic 10 Tournament but is expected to return for the NCAA Tournament.

Here are some things to watch in the East Region:

Spartans' pride 

Michigan State held off rival Michigan to win the Big Ten Tournament and rolls into a matchup with 15th-seeded Bradley unsure of Ahrens' status. Guard Joshua Langford is already lost for the season, but the Spartans can still lean on Cassius Winston and strong rebounding. Michigan State has won 10 of its past 11 games and is one of the hottest teams in the country.

More injuries

Virginia Tech's Justin Robinson tweeted Sunday he's ready to return after missing the past 12 games with a left foot injury. Virginia Tech opens the tournament against Saint Louis, which won the Atlantic 10 Tournament to secure an automatic bid.

Bubble in

Temple was squarely on the bubble after losing to Wichita State in its first American Athletic Conference Tournament game Friday. But Fran Dunphy's Owls — four years after being the first team on the outside looking in — didn't have their bubble burst by Saint Louis' run or Oregon's Pac-12 Tournament championship. They will face Belmont on Tuesday for the right to be the 11th seed in the East and face sixth-seeded Maryland.

"I felt like we did enough to get in, but you never know in these situations, so we're just sitting and watching and hoping," Temple guard Shizz Alston Jr. said after losing in the AAC Tournament.

LSU without Wade 

LSU goes into the NCAA Tournament having won nine of 11, but coach Will Wade remains under an indefinite suspension after a report he had been caught on a wiretap talking with a person convicted of funneling money to the families of basketball recruits. LSU opens against 14th-seeded Yale, which beat Harvard to win the Ivy League Tournament.

Maryland, my Maryland 

If Maryland gets through Temple or Belmont and then LSU or Yale, it'll be playing a home game in the Sweet 16. Capital One Arena is just 12 miles from College Park and could be the site of rival factions of Duke and Maryland fans if the former ACC rivals both reach the third round.