Owls Have Ny State Of Mind Beat New Mexico To Reach Tourney Semis At Madison Square Garden

Posted: November 16, 2000

There were 5,472 at the Liacouras Center.

New Mexico coach Fran Fraschilla couldn't help but notice. He knows that if last night's second-round Preseason NIT game were played at his place, the crowd would have been three times larger. And in this tournament, cash usually talks. Yet he took the high road, even though a win would have earned him a trip back to his New York City roots.

"As much as I would love to have had this game at The Pit, I know how it works," the former Manhattan and St. John's coach said, after Temple defeated his Lobos, 61-49. "I honestly feel . . .we would have had 18,000, and the NIT would have made a lot [more] money. But I'm not one to complain about the NIT. It's been good to me.

"I probably like to complain about some of the conference commissioners who like to do away with exempt games. Without this tournament, teams like New Mexico wouldn't get the chance, in most cases, to come here.

"I think playing this game, here in Philly, with the kind of young team we have, will help us grow. It's fun to be back on the East Coast and to see some people I recognize. The crowd really wasn't into it. It's a lot different out there. It's a college atmosphere. Having said that, it was a great opportunity for us."

Still, Temple is the team that improved to 2-0 and moved on to Wednesday's semifinals against the winner of South Alabama's game at Indiana tomorrow. The Owls also will be in Madison Square Garden the following Friday to play for either a championship or third place.

But first, they're headed to Memphis to take part in John Calipari's much-anticipated debut, which America can watch tomorrow on ESPN. The fact John Chaney, who once threatened his one-time Massachusetts nemesis in a postgame confrontation, agreed to that game probably went a long way toward keeping him home last night.

Speaking of atmosphere, there figure to be more than 20,000 fans at Memphis' Pyramid.

"I've already talked to Calipari," Chaney said. "I told him, 'I want you have ugly masks made of me, and T-shirts.' We're going to sell them. Then I'll let him choke me just before the game starts. We're going to make a lot of money. Then they're going to beat us. Going to the Sphinx, [the Owls are] going to be really upset when they see all those people. You know Cal's going to have dirty people sitting right behind my bench, throwing [stuff], hitting me, talking about my mama and everything else.

"It's only the only place in my life, not even St. Bonaventure, where I had to take the bench out to the center of the foul line to talk to my guys, when we played there [in the early '90s]."

Chaney was asked if the two added games next week would be a positive experience for his young players. All he wanted to talk about was food.

"I used to eat peanut-butter-and-jam sandwiches [while growing up]," he said. "Not jelly, because we were so poor. Mayonnaise and lettuce. Now, I'll go to Carnegie's and Stage Door Deli. Oh, man, how proud I am to be able to afford corned beef on rye for about $20. The sandwiches are so big, you need two mouths to eat that sucker.

"I go in there laughing and giggling. The guy says, 'That'll be 20.' I say, 'Yes, sir.' I love New York. But don't take my pickle."

So much for cuisine.

As for the hoops, the Owls fell behind by nine after 10 minutes. In the next 10, they scored 22 of the next 27, as the Lobos missed 12 of 14 shots.

New Mexico (1-1), which opened with an 11-point home win over George Mason Monday, was within three with 131/2 minutes to go. Seven minutes later, the lead was back to 11. The Lobos never got closer than eight, and that was in the final minute.

For the 45th straight time, the Owls won when they held opponents to fewer than 50.

The backcourt of Quincy Wadley and Lynn Greer combined for 33 points in 79 minutes, on 11-for-28 shooting (7-for-15 from beyond the arc). In Monday's 56-49 win over visiting Delaware, they were 2-for-22.

Wadley also had six assists. Greer had five steals, and has one turnover in the first two games.

Kevin Lyde had 10 points on 10 shots, to go with 10 rebounds. Freshman swingman David Hawkins had 11 points, six boards and four steals in 32 active minutes off the bench.

The Lobos turned it over 17 times, to Temple's five. The Owls rarely lose with those numbers. You can look it up.

"We want to play fast," Fraschilla said. "We played fast, and we scored 49. Not exactly UNLV.

"If you don't try to get easy baskets on them, they're murder in halfcourt. We shot 40 percent. And that's probably high, compared to [what] some teams [will do against them] this year."

Maybe even most teams.

"The guys were real excited about getting to New York," said Wayland White, who had 12 points and 10 boards for New Mexico. "I know I've never been there. I'll probably never go now."

Two years ago, the Owls won twice at MSG, in the Coaches vs. Cancer tourney. That team went to the Final Eight. This group has a long way to go before the NCAA Tournament. Still, 2-0 is 2-0.

"The more games we play, the more experience we'll get," Wadley said. "It'll make us better off down the line. That's how it is with a young team. We have new guys who still don't know the right places to go. If we were 2-for-300, a win is a win.

"The crowd doesn't matter. We have to be prepared to play a basketball game, wherever it is. That's always been the way we approach it. For the new guys that may be an adjustment. That's the name of the game."

Send e-mail to kernm@phillynews.com

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