No. 17 Temple 56, Richmond 52

Junior forward Lavoy Allen walked to midcourt seconds after the

final buzzer in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game,

smiled and raised three fingers.

No. 17 Temple was once again the conference champion, although

this time the top-seeded Owls got a scare from third-seeded

Richmond in a 56-52 victory on Sunday.

“All three years we haven’t been picked to win the championship

or not even come close,” Allen said after Temple (29-5) earned its

third straight automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. “We were

underrated at the beginning of the season and we found a way to get

through that and win as a team. This year was the toughest of the

three so it definitely feels good to win.”

It was not easy.

Ryan Brooks hit four free throws – both 1-and-1 opportunities –

in the final 50 seconds and the Owls had to survive a game-tying

3-point attempt by David Gonzalvez with 7 seconds to play.

Ramone Moore hit three free throws in the final 5 seconds to

wrap up the school’s ninth conference tournament title.

“Once he made it a two-possession game, I was excited,” Allen

said. “I was ready to get the game over with.”

Richmond (26-8) came close to dethroning the Owls, rallying from

a 12-point, second-half deficit. The Spiders not only had a chance

to tie the game in the closing seconds but they also missed a

couple of shots they normally make with Ryan Butler blowing a

fastbreak layup and conference player of the year Kevin Anderson

missing a short jumper in the lane in the final minutes.

“It was a fun game to play in,” Butler said after Richmond

just missed winning its first conference title. “Obviously we

would have liked to been on the other side, but Temple is tough.

They were tough all year long. It was a great game to play

in.”

Tournament MVP Juan Fernandez scored 18 points and Brooks and

Moore finished with 12 each for Temple, which avenged a 71-54 loss

at Richmond last month.

“This is really a wonderful team, we learned how to play

together and that was really important,” said Fernandez, who

missed the Richmond game with a concussion. “We have sure goals

and we achieved one winning the Atlantic 10. Now we really want to

play that first-round game. It’s been two years in a row Temple

can’t get past that, so it’s our job to put Temple in that second

round.”

Picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll, Temple players

hugged at halfcourt and jogged around the around high-fiving fans

with Fernandez carrying the flag of Argentina.

Anderson stepped up late for Richmond and scored nine of his 14

points in the final 7:06 to get the Spiders close.

Justin Harper and Butler added 10 points apiece and Gonzalvez

had nine, going 1 of 5 from long range.

Temple seemed to be in control after Brooks scored eight

straight points early in the second half. He capped the run with a

3-pointer that put the Owls ahead 44-32 with 12 minutes play.

The Owls then tried to milk the clock the rest of the game and

it very nearly cost them their 10th straight win.

“The first part of the game today they were on their own and we

did some really good things,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.

“Then I interfered later in the game and screwed things up.”

Temple did not score a field goal over the final 6:32, with the

final eight points coming from the free throw line.

“We hang our hats defensively,” Butler said. “We were fine

with them holding the ball. We felt if we could get it down to a

couple of seconds on the shot clock we could force them to take a

shot they didn’t want to take. We thought it worked to our

advantage.”

A layup by Butler and a three-point play by Anderson got

Richmond within 49-46 with 4:02 to go and Gonzalvez could have

narrowed the lead at 3:32 when he missed the front end of an

1-and-1.

A rebound follow by Anderson closed the gap to 49-48 with 1:17

to play, but Brooks was fouled on the next possession and made both

ends of the 1-and-1 for a 51-48 lead with 50.3 seconds to play.

Anderson cut the margin to a point with a drive down the left

side of the lane with 39.2 seconds left, but Brooks was fouled and

he again made two free throws with 22.1 seconds to go for a 53-50

lead.

Gonzalvez had his shot to tie the game but it hit off the rim

and Moore iced the title.

“It was a handoff to Dave,” Butler said. “He’s hit big shots

for us all year. We thought he was going to make it. We wish it

went in.”

The 52 points were a season low for Richmond.

“Temple plays good defense but we just missed some shots we

normally make,” said Anderson, who was 1 of 7 as Temple took a

29-25 halftime lead.