Temple prevails in Dunphy's Palestra reunion with Penn coach Allen

Temple's Lavoy Allen throws a pass under Penn's Jack Eggleston during the first half.
Temple's Lavoy Allen throws a pass under Penn's Jack Eggleston during the first half.
Posted: January 14, 2010

THREE YEARS AGO, Fran Dunphy returned to the Palestra for the first time as a visiting head coach, against players who had won yet another Ivy League championship with him the previous season.

It was probably the most emotional game of his life.

Last night was different. But no less difficult. He's gone up against former assistants before. Yet this time, the guy pacing in front of the opposite bench was his first big recruit at Penn, the one who along with Matt Maloney led the Quaker program back to prominence in the early 1990s. So the bonds are forever.

And now, Jerome Allen is the interim coach at Penn, having taken over for Glen Miller on Dec. 14. One of his assistants is Vince Curran, who was a member of Dunph's first Quaker squad in 1989-90.

It's easy to understand why John Chaney's successor at Temple wouldn't have minded sitting this one out.

The 19th-ranked Owls (14-3), who can defend with just about anyone and are still the only team that has gotten the best of Villanova this season, won for the 10th time in 11 tries, 60-45. Over a Penn club (1-11) that was coming off its first victory since last season.

Still, it was a five-point game with just under 9 minutes remaining before the inevitable became reality. Because the Owls are the two-time defending Atlantic 10 champs, and the Quakers, for a variety of reasons, simply don't have enough capable components at the moment.

"It's always difficult for me to come back here, because it's such a special place," said Dunphy, who spent 17 seasons in West Philly. "To add to that, I look down and see Jerome, who meant so much to me as a player . . .

"We just had to grind it out. Fortunately, we did. But I thought Penn played great. I'm not surprised. They played harder than us. They wanted it more than we did. We found a way to win. We made some good plays down the stretch. But we made some bonehead plays early.

"You want your kids to pay attention to every possession, let alone every game. They're human. I get that. We learned a valuable lesson. Jerome has them playing with that mind-set. We were almost in protect mode, rather than being aggressive. I'll take the blame for that."

It was a two-point game with 3 minutes left in the first half. By the break, Temple led by nine. Then the Owls scored the first seven points after intermission. But a 10-0 Penn run got it to 45-40. Temple would win the next 4 1/2 minutes, 6-0. And that was pretty much it.

"It happened to us against Villanova," said Temple's Juan Fernandez. "We were fired up. It was the opposite today. We enjoyed the Villanova game. We have to learn from today."

Added teammate Ryan Brooks, who made three driving layups down the stretch, one of which resulted in a three-point play: "Like coach said to us, they had nothing to lose. It's something you have to be ready for. We can't let that happen. We have to expect teams to play as hard as Penn did tonight."

Brooks scored 10 of his 15 in the second half. Fernandez totaled a dozen.

The Quakers had three players reach double digits: Jack Eggleston (14), Zack Rosen (10) and sixth man Dan Monckton (also 10). The Quakers held their own on the boards, but shot just 3-for-20 from the arc. The 17 turnovers weren't good, either.

But it was Allen's home debut, in his fifth game. It has to start somewhere.

"I know a lot, but I don't know everything," Allen said. "I knew once the game started, [Dunphy] was going to do his best to motivate his team to get a victory, and I was going to approach it the same way. At the end of the day, it wasn't about [the two of] us. It was about Temple vs. Penn.

"I almost tried to sub myself in. Then I touched my head and realized I didn't have any hair. And I didn't have any eligibility, either."

At this level, it's never about moral anythings. But the Quakers aquitted themselves well against a team that's going to be a factor in March. That's a something.

"We try to win every game," Eggleston said. "[Allen's] a competitor. I can appreciate that. But we wanted to beat Davidson, Duke, Lafayette and UMBC just as badly."

The Quakers still have to play La Salle and Saint Joseph's before the Ivy part of the schedule tips off. If they can be better by then, they'll be headed in the right direction.

"The wins will come if we buy into the process," Rosen said. "There's not much else to it. We had a winnable game tonight. We have to change the culture, the way we go about things. It's not if you win or lose, but how. Winning solves everything. We were right there with them. We showed we can scrap and hustle. We had the opportunity."

Hopefully, they'll have more. And sooner rather than later, even some conversions.

"I'm so happy for our guys, that they had the opportunity to play a Big 5 game," Allen noted. "They're all special. The records and results go out the window. It's all about the experiences they'll be able to share.

"The end result was, they won the game. We had a lot of bright spots. If we had executed better, taken care of the details, it may have been a different result . . . Rome wasn't built in a day."

Once, Allen made all the difference. Time to find out if he can do so again, in another capacity. The only certainty is that he was mentored by one of the best. That should work in his favor.

Until they meet again . . .

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