Monday, February 15, 2010

Temple of Boom

One thing was evident on Saturday afternoon: Temple was mad. Really, really mad. In the previous game, the Owls got trounced by Richmond 71-54, and Saturday they were looking to take out their frustration on Rhode Island. It didn't take long to see that this one was over practically before it even started.

Michael Eric came out on fire, playing perhaps his best game of his young career, and sparked another Owl blowout victory (see what I did there?). The 78-56 throttling was Temple's 6th win by 20 or more points of the season, improving the most assuredly NCAA Tournament-bound Owls to 20-5 overall and tied with Charlotte and Xavier for second in the Atlantic-10 at 8-2. And it was all started by the sophomore out of Nigeria.

Eric came out more aggressive than he has all season, going right at any and all Rams that stood in his way. He was going to the hoop, facing up, taking hook shots, slamming home dunks, even banking in a jumper, and Temple sprinted out to a 43-23 halftime lead behind 17 points on 8-9 shooting by Eric. He finished with a game-high 19 points on 9-10 shooting in 25 minutes of action, and his 90 percent shooting helped Temple finish with a school record shooting performance, finishing 68.6 percent from the field.

Shockingly, Temple only shot two foul shots the entire game and turned the ball over 15 times, nearly 5 times more than the 10 they average a game. But their defense was suffocating, limiting the Rams to just 30.5 percent shooting and just 25 percent from three, while the Owls themselves shot otherworldly. Not only did Temple finish 35-51 overall, but they went 6-6 from behind the arch, only taking smart threes. Basically, it was the complete opposite of their loss at Charlotte.

Ryan Brooks was 7-8 and made for of those threes for 18 points. Ramone Moore showed his athleticism, scoring 12 points on 6-9 shooting and giving Rhode Island fits defensively with his length. And Lavoy Allen was the best player on the court from start to finish, scoring 17 points on 8-10 shooting, grabbing 7 boards, dishing out 4 assists, swiping 2 steals and blocking 4 shots.

His full array of talents were on display Saturday, grabbing some truly athletic rebounds, scoring at will, making some tremendous passes and showing intensity throughout. When he's determined to play, Lavoy Allen can be a beast. He's definitely one of the more overlooked players in America, but if Temple keeps winning and winning and winning, people will take notice. At least they should.

One person that every Temple fan notices when he takes the court is Juan Fernandez. Unfortunately, he hadn't been out there for a little while due to a concussion. But Saturday, he was back, and despite playing just 18 minutes and taking just three shots (went 1-3 for three points), it was clear that Fernandez will be just fine. In those 18 minutes, he dished out 6 assists, several in amazing fashion. It definitely brought back memories of Pepe doling out the rock to Mark Karcher and company. I guess that's why they call Fernandez Pepe Sanchez with a jump shot.

The win pretty much cemented Temple's place in the big dance. Rhode Island came in with a 19-4 record and left with a beatdown. It was certainly a great way to bounce back from a disappointing effort against Richmond. And it was a statement to the rest of the country that the Owls are still a team that will be a difficult test for anyone in March.

BallHype: hype it up!

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