Allen provides spark as Temple downs Saint Joseph's

Hawks' Bryant Irwin jumps while trying to defend Owls' Micheal Eric.
Hawks' Bryant Irwin jumps while trying to defend Owls' Micheal Eric.
Posted: January 07, 2010

IF THERE WAS one thing beyond their records that separated Temple and Saint Joseph's, it was defense. By almost any measure, the Owls, Kansas on Saturday aside, were among the nation's 10 best. The Hawks were well into the 200s.

The numbers can't always predict the future, but, sometimes, they can. The script at the Liacouras Center last night played out to the numbers and maybe even a bit beyond.

No. 21 Temple led from the start. The Hawks caught up once, but never looked as if they would pass. And once Temple got control late in the first half, only the final score was in doubt.

It was every bit as one-sided as 73-46 sounds.

The Hawks did not have a single player score in double figures. They shot only 31.5 percent, 28 percent in the second half.

The Owls ran their classic high-low game on two of their first three possessions, Craig Williams finding Micheal Eric wide open at the rim. In between those easy baskets, Williams nailed a long three-pointer, and it was 7-0 in a blink.

"I thought we could be good, because Lavoy [Allen] is such a good defender inside, seldom out of position," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said of his team's defense. "[Ryan] Brooks is such a solid defender on the basketball . . . I wasn't quite sure we could get our numbers to where our numbers are right now."

St. Joe's (4-9, 0-1 Atlantic 10) played with requisite effort. That wasn't the issue. It was more about the players than the plays.

"Tonight was not due to not caring or tired or we're in exam break and nobody's around school," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "None of that. We weren't good enough."

The Owls (12-3, 1-0) began the game without Allen, who did not start because he was 10 minutes late for a game-day film session.

When Allen went into the game after 8 minutes, the Owls led, only 14-11. By halftime, it was 34-24 and heading to far worse.

Allen had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in his 31 minutes. Eric had a career-best 13 points.

"We did not account for Micheal Eric starting the game in such an aggressive fashion," Martelli said.

St. Joe's recruited Allen and Eric. They chose Temple.

Time after time, Temple jammed the ball into the post. The Hawks could not do much about it. When Idris Hilliard got his fourth foul with 17:18, they could do nothing about it. And when the Owls did miss, they often got the rebound.

The Owls had 46 lane points to 18 for the Hawks. Continuing a seasonlong pattern, the Hawks got buried on second-chance points (21-4) and overwhelmed on the glass (49-25).

Eric's previous career best was 12 against Siena on Nov. 21. Since then, he had missed four games with injuries and scored eight points in the other seven. He was beyond his previous best with 15:44 left in the game.

Lower Merion High teammates, Ryan Brooks (Temple) and Garrett Williamson (St. Joe's), have been on winning teams forever. Brooks still is.

"This is one of the hardest things I've ever been through in my life," Williamson said. "Some good's got to come out of this. You've just got to face it head on."

Brooks, who was quite sick Tuesday night, had 13 points. And played the defense that is his calling card.

"I think you can really dictate the outcome of a game if you really buckle down on defense," Brooks said. "And kind of take the other team out of what they're trying to do."

Temple has been doing that so well, it has held 10 of its opponents at least 14 points below their average. They held the Hawks 25 points below their average.

Temple's Juan Fernandez, who was averaging 14.1 points, was 0-for-10 and his team still won by 27. Williamson made it hard for Fernandez.

"Garrett Williamson's a great defensive player," Dunphy said.

Looking for something to get his team rolling, Martelli put freshman Justin Crosgile into the starting lineup. He was solid early, but, like his teammates, got buried under the avalanche.

Temple has beaten St. Joe's six consecutive times. More important in the present season, the Owls have won eight of nine, and the one loss was to No. 1 Kansas. The Hawks have lost nine of 10. At the moment, they are ships sailing in opposite directions as they head out into the A-10 seas.

An average St. Joe's season over the last nine has been 22-10. This is the season in which 20 losses are in play.

A lone Temple rollout sort of summed up the Hawks' plight: "Princeton? Really?"

There is that. There is also the fact that Temple is really good and playing like it.

"A lot of us spend a lot of time, and we say Fran Dunphy is such a good guy," Martelli said. "We need to start changing that. He is a great, great basketball coach."

And his fourth Temple team is playing in the coach's image. *

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