Temple Shows No Spark

Posted: December 28, 1990

TUCSON, Ariz. — They didn't start the fire.

They didn't even ignite the first spark.

It is, John Chaney carefully explained, symptomatic of whatever is wrong right now with his Temple Owls.

"I kept looking all night for a spark, something, someone to get us started, something to make us realize what we needed to do," the Owls' coach said after last night's disturbing 81-79 overtime loss to Iowa State in the opening round of the Fiesta Bowl Basketball Classic.

Their reward for malfunctioning is a consolation game tomorrow night against Pepperdine, an 80-66 loser to host Arizona.

"I thought about jumping up and calling a play every time we came down the floor, but I don't like that concept," Chaney said. "At some point, these kids have to develop a sense of what we're trying to do. If I try to do too much from the sideline, I'm guilty of overcoaching and that isn't the answer, either."

The Owls (4-3) competed well enough to stay in contention against an opponent that came in 2-9 and seemed ripe to be beaten again. But they had no rhythm to their offensive sets and shot only 38.7 percent (12-for-31) in the first half. They could not create the sort of floor balance necessary to allow senior guard Mark Macon and junior center Donald Hodge to wreak their special kind of havoc.

Instead, they allowed the Cyclones to race off the McKale Center floor in wild celebration. They allowed Victor Alexander, the 6-9, 275-pound center, to ring up 28 points and 12 rebounds, shooting a relatively unencumbered 10-for- 16 from the floor. Worse, freshman guard Skip McCoy, starting at the point in place of junior Brian Pearson, had 17 points, and senior Doug Collins - shifting from small forward to big guard - had 10 points and 12 assists.

And never mind that Alexander looks bloated, he's effective.

"He always gets a lot of points and rebounds," Iowa State coach Johnny Orr said. "He never fumbles, either. It doesn't make any difference what he weighs. The pros care, but he's not a pro. He plays for me, he's not one of them."

The final blows for Temple came when backup forward Paul Doerrfeld nailed a jumper from the left corner with 6 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra period. The Cyclones advanced the ball up the floor much too easily off Macon's missed free throw (the front end of a one-and-one) with 15.6 seconds left.

Ironically, Doerrfeld missed two free throws with 8 seconds left in OT and the Cyclones protecting a two-point advantage, but Macon was able only to launch a wild three-point attempt from way out on the right side as time expired.

"We wanted Mark to take the last shot," Chaney said. "But we were running off a missed free throw (with no timeouts left), and that meant he had about 5 seconds to go 70 feet. And every time he tried to turn the corner to get in better position, somebody was waiting for him."

Macon finished the evening with 26 points, 7 rebounds and 6 steals, but all he left behind was a painful dollop of philosophy.

"We just weren't there as a team," he said. "Defensively, it showed. All the teams we've lost to, they've really taken care of us at our defensive end, and we feel as if our defense is the key to our offense.

"Everybody needs a third eye, a third dimension, an ability to know when one of us is out of place. We have to move, to help out. It's not just instinct, it's knowing what to do.

"This would be my analogy: If my mom's in our house and I'm outside the house and there's a fire, I'm going to go back in and show her the way out. That's what we have to do as a team, show each other the way."

That's the message Chaney has been patiently delivering, wondering when - or if - it will get through.

"We never had a handle on our team tonight, at any end of the floor," he said. "Even when we had the lead, I felt very insecure.

"To say exactly what's wrong, I don't have a clue. I just know that every one of our offensive sets busted or one guy simply was someplace he shouldn't have been. We were ticking like a clock that was 1 second too late."

That included Hodge, who had 14 points and nine rebounds but could not handle Alexander inside. It included forward Mik Kilgore, who missed his first eight shots and finished 3-for-14; forward Mark Strickland, who fouled out with 3:07 left in OT, and point guard Vic Carstarphen, who also had 14 points, but never seemed to have control of the offense.

"Something wasn't clicking right for us," Hodge said, "but near the end of regulation, I felt we had it until the guy hit the last shot. We played bad, but I figured we'd escape. Instead, they played their game, and we played along."

Macon, the gemstone, feeds off his coach, drawing strength, building inner fire. Last night, he wondered why it took the Owls so long to recognize the lessons that had been placed in front of them.

"It seems that sometimes we have to get hit by a truck for us to realize something," he said. "It shouldn't take that long. It shouldn't be that way."

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