No. 20 Temple 70, George Washington 57

Temple took the title, then it struck a pose.

The student section unfurled an “A-10 regular season champs”

banner moments before No. 20 Temple beat George Washington 70-57 on

Saturday to win a share of the conference championship. The sign

served as the perfect backdrop for a team photo and a fun way to

kick off a celebration the Owls have anticipated for weeks.

“This is the time we’ve waited for a little bit now,” guard

Ryan Brooks said. “Now that it’s here, we’re going to take it

seriously.”

The Owls can take a short breather to enjoy a few milestones.

They also earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference

tournament.

Temple (26-5, 14-2) has won the last two conference tournament

titles, but coach Fran Dunphy’s team won’t have to sweat out

winning this year to keep playing in March. They’ll be in the NCAA

field – and the Owls will be there with their best chance to win a

tournament game for the first time since 2001.

Temple proved the last two seasons a No. 1 seed is no guarantee

of winning it all. Still, they’ll take the top honor.

“I believe we have a long season ahead of us,” Brooks

said.

No. 25 Xavier would finish with the same A-10 record as Temple

with a win Saturday against St. Bonaventure. But the Owls hold the

tiebreaker because of a 77-72 win in their lone matchup on Jan.

20.

“It’s important that we say to ourselves we played as good as

anybody else in the conference in the regular season,” Dunphy

said.

Micheal Eric scored 18 points, Brooks scored 14 points and Lavoy

Allen had 12.

The Owls honored former greats at halftime, including Mark Macon

and Hall of Fame coach John Chaney. The Owls have had a season

reminiscent of Chaney’s glory days when they reached the regional

final five times from 1988-2001.

Dunphy has performed one of college basketball’s top coaching

jobs this season, leading a team picked to finish fifth in the A-10

into the national rankings and now a conference title.

“I’m hoping they’ll be in a nice bracket,” Chaney said.

Chaney greeted most of the players near the locker room after

the game with a kind word or encouragement. He’s tight with Dunphy

and gave the blessing for the former Penn coach to take over in

2006.

Like they have all season, the Owls got a little bit of

production from just about every player. Eric scored nine of 11

Temple points early in the second half to open up a 10-point lead.

Allen, Ramone Moore and Brooks went inside for buckets three

straight times that stretched the lead to 14 and all but wrapped up

the conference championship.

Joseph Katuka scored 13 points for George Washington (16-13,

6-10) and Lasan Kromah had 12.

“They just dominated us inside,” George Washington coach Karl

Hobbs said. “We’ve got to not make the mental breakdown mistakes

that, for some reason, we just can’t correct.”

The Owls got off to a sluggish start and trailed a chunk of the

first half until Moore’s tip-in at the buzzer gave them a 30-29

lead at the break. Brooks and Eric got hot early in the second to

help the Owls finish 12-1 at home this season.

What a season already for the Owls.

They cracked the Top 25 for the first time since 2001 and beat a

top-5 team in Villanova for the first time since 2000. Temple also

won the city series title.

“Now we have a whole new set of goals we have to reassess,”

Dunphy said.

First, some revelry.

The estatic Owls ran around the court high-fiving fans and

gathered at halfcourt for a team huddle and a little dancing.

Guard Juan Fernandez dashed into the stands to hug some fans and

some Owls jumped on their teammates’ backs as they walked down the

tunnel to the locker room to celebrate some more.

“We knew teams were going to start bringing their A-game to us

and we were going to have to step up,” Brooks said. “We just

wanted to focus on getting better as a team and building momentum

going into the postseason.”