One last huddle for Temple's Lavoy Allen

Lavoy Allen leaves the court for the last time with the Temple Owls as San Diego State players celebrate around him.
Lavoy Allen leaves the court for the last time with the Temple Owls as San Diego State players celebrate around him.
Posted: March 21, 2011

TUCSON, Ariz. - McKale Center was offering up a final, exhausted roar. Most of the people were there to root San Diego State through to the Sweet 16 but few of them had expected to have to go double-overtime to do it. As it turned out, it took that long to survive against a Temple team that was missing 40 percent of its starting lineup but zero percent of its integrity.

In the stands, then, the red rollicked. But after the handshakes, and after Temple coach Fran Dunphy and his staff exited the floor, the players gathered at center court. They formed a circle, almost as a form of protection from the noisy celebration taking place all around them.

Lavoy Allen was the focus of that circle. It was for the last time.

"We huddle at center court after every game - we started doing it a couple of years ago," Allen said. "I was just telling those guys that I would miss them, things like that. We played hard. We matched their intensity and their aggressiveness. Unfortunately, we just couldn't get the win."

He spoke easily enough after the final game of a great college career. Slumped in a folding chair in the quiet Temple locker room, he betrayed little of the emotion that must have been churning inside.

It is the hardest part of the greatest college spectacle, talking to the seniors after their run is done. The NCAA Tournament is a reward for all college basketball players, easy to understand, but it is a kind of special validation for some of them, evidence for all to see of their standing in the business.

It is hard to know where Allen stands in all of that, but his disappointment was plain. He made only one field goal in the Owls' first-round win over Penn State, and he finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds against San Diego State.

"I didn't really want to go out this early," Allen said. "You know, I really didn't play well the two games that we played here. I wanted to perform better for my team and hopefully come out with a victory.

"But, you know, I mean, it's been a great 4 years. Made a lot of friends. Hopefully our friendships last longer than my basketball career. And I'm going to miss it. Miss putting on this Temple jersey."

He will miss it and they will miss him. Allen has been a backbone kind of player for this team, smooth and unselfish (almost to a fault). But when starters Micheal Eric and Scootie Randall suffered late-season injuries, that backbone (and more assertiveness) showed most of all. If a realistic observer could see that the loss of Eric and Randall likely would sink the Owls after the first game of the tournament, the idealists in the Temple locker room were doing their best to write a different script.

It was because of Allen that they all really believed they had a chance. Now, he is done.

"I mentioned it to our guys in the locker room," Dunphy said. "We talked about how we will celebrate . . . Lavoy Allen's career, which has been just remarkable, in all honesty. He has pretty much dragged all of us with him. And 4 straight years of going to NCAA Tournaments and having just a remarkable run for us.

"We're going to miss him greatly.

"He's been a special player and we will talk about that for a long time to come," the coach said.

In the locker room, Allen sat there and said he felt no special consolation that the undermanned Owls had hung around with the Aztecs for as long as they did. He called the moment "heartbreaking." But he spoke evenly, and admitted that he has been playing out this final moment in his head for some time now.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "I've been thinking about it for a while, dreading this moment. I knew it was going to come eventually. Now you've got to move on . . .

"I really do appreciate it, just having the opportunity to play Division I basketball and having a pretty good career here, playing for a great coach, having good teammates for 4 years. I definitely appreciate it."

There were more questions - about the last shot of his career, blocked by the Aztecs' Malcolm Thomas in the final minute of the second overtime; about this sequence or that; about fatigue.

And Lavoy Allen might have smiled, just a little, when he said, "My legs are feeling all right. I could play a couple more overtimes."

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