ven before Pepe Sanchez walked on the court, he was sniffling and dabbing at his eyes.
But the tears really began falling when Temple's point guard was introduced before his last home game, after his fellow seniors - Lamont Barnes, Keaton Sanders and Quincy Wadley - all a little more stoic, walked out on a carpet rolled onto the Liacouras Center court.
"I get emotional," the point guard from Argentina said. "Probably for players in the U.S., this is normal. But for me, it was a dream that came true."
|Game stats from TotalCast|
Afterward, Owls coach John Chaney appeared to have contracted a case of red eye in his right eye.
"I got an eye disease, from tears coming out of my eyes," Chaney said. "The doctor just told me, from wiping my eyes with a dirty rag."
The UMass defense flies past Quincy Wadley.
UMass (15-12, 9-5) made the first half adventurous, taking a 27-24 lead into the break, although the game wasn't the biggest adventure of the trip for the Minutemen.
Just as their plane touched down Friday at Philadelphia International Airport, "we were close, we were absolutely, positively close, then we went straight back up," coach Bruiser Flint said.
The pilot told the passengers that another plane had been on the runway, Flint said.
How did the UMass players react?
"That's all they can talk about: 'You saw the plane. We almost crashed!' " Flint said.
UMass' halftime lead was no fluke. The team with the most energy was ahead. The Minutemen were hitting the boards, getting nine second-chance points against three for Temple, and played most of the half in a zone defense, holding Temple without a field goal for almost seven minutes.
"The first thing to beating Temple, you've got to play tough," said Flint, who received a technical foul for arguing in the second half. "Then you worry about the other stuff - turnovers and rebounds and defense.
"But if you don't come out and play tough, they elbow you, push you, shove you. That's the way they play. So my thing to my guys was, 'Deal with that challenge first.' "
In the half, Temple shot 30.8 percent and had seven turnovers as opposed to five assists. Temple's starting front line combined for just one field goal, and forward Mark Karcher was 0 for 6 from the field.
Karcher never got going, finishing with three points on 1-for-10 shooting.
In the first half, Greer was pretty much the Owls' offense after Wadley hit two early three-pointers. (Wadley could return if the NCAA votes in April to allow academic "non-qualifiers" to play a fourth season provided they graduate in four years.)
Greer had 10 points in 10 minutes. Moreover, UMass had a 27-20 lead until he hit a pull-up jumper in the lane and a wonderful scoop shot while being fouled.
Flint, in spirited conversation with the officials throughout the half, was particularly upset in the final seconds after freshman center Micah Brand was poked in the eye and no call was made. Brand came out after halftime with a little bandage above his left eye.
But after Chris Kirkland scored for UMass to open the second half, Temple revved up its defense and scored 37 of the next 50 points. After Karcher went to the bench with his third foul, Greer came in two minutes into the second half and ignited Temple again.
The Owls scored on their next four possessions. Greer hit a three-pointer on a kick-out pass from Sanchez; then Sanchez hit a three-pointer from the left wing, putting Temple ahead by 38-30.
Afterward, Sanchez talked for the first time about the technical foul he received Thursday night for taunting a St. Bonaventure player who had just come in the game. He said that he had no argument with the technical, but that his words were the second half of an exchange.
"He said something," Sanchez said of the opposing player, freshman Eric Siegrist. "After the game, he apologized. That's why I won't repeat what he said. But it was something that really bothered me. That's why I reacted the way I did."
Chaney wasn't too interested Thursday night in hearing Sanchez's explanation.
"That wasn't a problem at all," Sanchez said of the criticism from his coach. "I put it away."
Sanchez did have a word for Flint when a time-out was called.
"I mean, he was on the court - I almost fell," Sanchez said. "When you have two ankles like I have now, I don't really feel like . . . stepping on somebody and getting hurt again. He shouldn't be on the court. I told him."
HILADELPHIA - UMass should have known. The Minutemen's flight was about to land on Friday afternoon when the pilot suddenly pulled them back into a climb.
Another airplane was on the runway. It was a message. There's no room - at least not in a game against Temple - for an opponent in Philadelphia right now.
Thus yesterday's result. The Minutemen (15-12), despite playing hard and well enough for a three-point halftime lead, proved just as mortal as every other Owl opponent in yesterday's 72-54 loss.
Monty Mack picks Mark Karcher's pocket.
The Minutemen lost all of their starch at that moment. A rare zone that had worked so well for UMass in the first half was scrapped in favor of the usual man-to-man. With 15:12 left, and Temple holding a 38-30 lead, UMass chased Temple from behind the rest of the way.
UMass is not a catch-up team - especially against the 22-4 Owls' matchup zone.
``We thought about going back to our zone, but they were scoring some points,'' UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. ``We can't come back like that.''
But Flint's rival was suitably impressed. The Minutemen defended well enough to hold Temple to 30 percent shooting in the first half, including an 0-of-6 performance from forward Mark Karcher.
``Very much so,'' Chaney said of whether the Minutemen were a better team from the one the Owls beat by 27 points on Feb. 1 in Amherst. ``They're not trying to win the game now with players who aren't so talented. They look to go to their strength, and that's (Monty) Mack.''
Mack scored 20 points yesterday, including five treys. But the senior guard also shot only 3-for-10 in the second half.
Everything, as it turned out, was hard work over the last 20 minutes.
Pepe Sanchez, despite foul trouble, was controlling the floor too well at this stage as part of his eight-assist performance. The Temple point guard assisted on a pair of explosive hoops - a Barnes dunk off a bounce pass and a reverse layup by Lynn Greer off a Sanchez drive-and-dish assist. Greer, who finished with 17 points off the bench, followed that hoop with a deep 3-pointer for Temple's 38-30 lead with 15:12 left.
Flint, who railed at the officiating crew of Larry Lembo, Glen Mayborg and Mark DiStaola most of the afternoon, picked up his first technical of the season with 11:09 left while protesting an apparent non-call on Mack.
Quincy Wadley hit both free throws, and then went back to the line for two more in the ensuing possession for a 48-34 lead with 10:22 left.
The four-point swing gave life to what, with a Lamont Barnes dunk, became a 10-0 run for a 50-34 Temple lead with 9:45 left. UMass' game of catch-up was officially finished.
HILADELPHIA - Just because Temple has won 13 straight, that doesn't mean there isn't room for some good old-fashioned punishment.
Mike Babul tries to avoid steamrolling Pepe Sanchez.
But this, in turn, didn't put a stopper on the tears yesterday, during Senior Day festivities.
When it was Sanchez' turn, the Argentinian senior walked out with his teeth biting down on the taped-together index and middle fingers on his right hand, his eyes and nose red from uncontrollable sniffling.
``I got emotional,'' said Sanchez, who had eight assists, four steals and a particularly rare four turnovers in the ensuing 72-54 win over UMass. ``I was just thinking about how this was a dream for me, coming here, and all of the things we've gone through. I don't mind crying. That's the way I am.''
No one, of course, wiped his eyes more than Chaney yesterday, over the course of hugging each player and family member. By the time he reached the postgame press room, the coach's right eye was deep red.
``I wiped my eyes with a dirty towel, and now they say I have some sort of disease,'' he said. ``But it happens every year - the kids get a little soft when they see tears in my eyes, I guess. It's a selfish feeling, too, because you don't think of the kids you have coming back - it's the ones who are going. You don't want to let go.''
The plane truth
UMass coach Bruiser Flint, seasoned frequent flier that he is, said it wasn't a big deal to him. So what if the team plane came within what he called ``10 feet'' of landing on Friday before going back up with the discovery that another plane was on the runway.
``It's the third time I was on a plane when that happened,'' he said. ``It didn't hit the ground, but we were close. And so it's been the topic of conversation every since with everyone - you know, `Hey man, we almost crashed.' It was a packed flight, which made it even more frightening.''
Battle for second continues
The Minutemen dropped to 9-5 in the Atlantic 10 and are tied for second place in the East Division with St. Bonaventure (an 83-74 winner over St. Joseph's yesterday). Next Saturday's UMass game against the Bonnies in Olean, N.Y., probably will determine which team gets a bye and which team plays in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Both teams have key league games before next Saturday's showdown. The Minutemen host George Washington on Tuesday, while St. Bonaventure is at home against Xavier on Wednesday.
HILADELPHIA — On its flight from Bradley International Airport Friday, the airplane carrying the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team came within a few feet of landing — then had to quickly return to the air when another plane was discovered on its runway.
Kevin Lyde gets the inside track for the rebound.
"You've got to give credit where it's due," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "We took up the challenge and played with far more intensity than we had the first time (a 75-48 Temple win at the Mullins Center), but they're as good as anybody in the country."
UMass (15-12, 9-5 Atlantic 10) remained tied with St. Bonaventure for second place in the A-10 East. The Bonnies won 83-74 at St. Joseph's.
In the first half, UMass competed with an admirable determination and played Temple as well as any team — including Cincinnati — has done during the Owls' 13-game winning streak. Showing a zone defense that had Temple clearly confused, UMass led by as many as seven and took a 27-24 lead into the break.
But Temple (22-4, 13-1), which clinched the A-10 East title with the victory, used a 14-1 surge to take a 38-30 lead. The Owls started doing damage with their outside shooting, and when UMass fell behind, Flint decided he had to come out of the zone.
"We couldn't get into an offensive rhythm before that," Temple coach John Chaney said. "UMass would show us zone, or man-to-man, and it's tough for kids to recognize the changes on the floor. It's even tough for Pepe (Sanchez.)"
Quincy Wadley's 21 points led Temple, while Lynn Greer had 17. But when Temple did score, it was especially frustrating to a UMass defense that had nearly stopped the Owls several times.
Mike Babul and Kevin Lyde watch the ball slip away.
Flint picked up his first technical foul of the season with 11:09 remaining and UMass trailing 44-34. He was furious with the officiating crew of Glen Mayborg, Mark Distaola and Larry Lembo all afternoon, but said after the game that he'd rather not comment on it.
But by that time, the game seemed to be slipping away because Temple's defense, which is ranked second in the nation to Princeton's, makes a 10-point deficit seem like 20.
"They come out and do the things they have to do," said UMass guard Monty Mack, who scored 20 points. "That's why they're a very good team."
"We came out lackadaisically, and we played the way they wanted us to play," said Wadley, one of the Temple seniors introduced before their final home game of the season. "But it came back for us on defense."
The Owls took the lead for good when Greer's reverse layup made it 32-30 with 16:12 left. Greer followed with a 3-point shot, and the Owls were on their way to their 22nd straight home win.
"We couldn't keep up with their scoring, and we hurt ourselves with missed free throws," said Flint, mindful of a crucial 7:11 second-half stretch in which UMass went without a field goal. The Minutemen went from a 29-24 lead to a 40-31 deficit in that time.
HILADELPHIA - Foul trouble may have dictated John Chaney's best coaching move of the day Saturday. After the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's first-half game plan effectively shut down No. 8 Temple's Pepe Sanchez and Mark Karcher, foul trouble sent them to the bench.
With the two leading candidates for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year watching most of the run from the bench, the Owls turned a 27-24 halftime deficit into a 53-35 lead, with a 29-8 spurt that included UMass coach Bruiser Flint's first technical foul of the year.
"I don't want to talk about the officiating," Flint said after the game.
The Minutemen couldn't answer, falling to their arch rivals, 72-54, at the Liacouras Center.
"You have to give credit where credit is due," Flint said. "They're one of the best teams in the country. We just didn't have enough tonight. I thought my guys had a great effort. We just hope we play them again in a couple weeks."
UMass switched in and out of zone effectively in the first half, confusing Temple a little bit on offense as the Owls committed seven turnovers. The Minutemen even outrebounded the much bigger Owls, 22-20 before intermission and led by as many as seven.
"We could not get into a rhythm," Chaney said. "He was showing zone once, man the next time. We were screaming to try to get them into some situation that would fit zone and man, but you can't do it. They were so busy fighting the defense, they couldn't recognize the changes that were happening out on the floor. Even Pepe. Bruiser did a great job changing the defense on us."
Temple found the range quickly in the second half. After Kirkland scored on a drive from the left wing to put UMass up 29-24, Temple scored eight straight points. When the Owls knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, UMass was forced to abandon its zone.
"I thought the zone would help us in the first half with rebounding," Flint said. "What got us out of it was they hit a couple threes. Once we got out of it they started rebounding."
"They just came out shooting well in the first five or six minutes," said UMass forward Mike Babul. "Most of them were contested."
When Karcher and Sanchez returned, the Minutemen narrowed the gap to 53-42, but that was as close as they would get.
""It was frustrating because we were making them work," Babul said. "They were taking like 25-30 seconds off the shot clock, but then we'd get a foul or they'd get a three. That drains you when you're playing that much defense and they end up making a shot with a few seconds left on the shot clock. Once you get down double-figures it's tough to come back."
Sanchez, Quincy Wadley, Keaton Sanders and Lamont Barnes were honored as part of senior day. Wadley, the perennial Minuteman killer, led Temple with 20 points, while Greer added 17. Monty Mack paced UMass with 20 points, while Chris Kirkland and Shannon Crooks had 10 each.
Karcher finished with just three points, while Sanchez finished strong with eight assists and seven rebounds as Temple improved to 22-4 (13-1).
Rebounding killed UMass in the teams' previous meeting as the Owls turned a 48-20 advantage on the glass into a 75-48 win. Foul shooting was this game's problem as the Minutemen missed 12 of 24 free throws, while Temple made 17 of 23.
"We missed some foul shots which killed us," Flint said. "In the balance of the game when your trying to keep it within four or five, we'd go to the line and come up 0-for-2."
The Minutemen (15-12, 9-5 A-10) return to action Tuesday when they host George Washington at 7:30 p.m. before finishing the regular season Saturday at St. Bonaventure.
"We want to finish up strong," Babul said. "We've got GW and then St. Bonnies. Hopefully we can win them both and get a bye for the first round of the A-10 Tournament."
Chaney was impressed with the improvement in the Minutemen from the first time the two teams played until this time.
"There is a lot of difference," Chaney said. "I think they're going to do well when the (A-10) tournament comes around if they continue to (play like) that."
HILADELPHIA - Give the Atlantic 10 schedule makers credit. If they wanted final-week drama, they certainly got it.
St. Bonaventure's 83-74 win over St. Joseph's and the University of Massachusetts' 72-54 loss to Temple set the stage for a one-game showdown Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Olean, N.Y., for second place and the all-important bye in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Since the league expanded to 12 teams, no team has ever won the tournament without a bye.
Both schools enter the week with 9-5 conference records with two games to play. But the only impact that UMass' Tuesday game with George Washington and the Bonnies' Wednesday tilt with Xavier could have is on the schools' National Invitation Tournament chances. Those games will have no impact whatsoever on which team finishes second.
If UMass loses its midweek game and St. Bonaventure wins its game the Minutemen would hold the applicable tie-breaker (record vs. East opponents) if they win Saturday. If the Bonnies lose midweek, but beat UMass they would still get the bye with a 2-0 record over the Minutemen this season.
St. Bonaventure defeated the Minutemen, 70-60, on Jan. 6.
* * *
Temple's Quincy Wadley was honored as part of the school's senior day on Saturday, but the 6-foot-4 guard might be back next year.
Wadley was a non-qualifier coming out of high school and therefore had to sit out his freshman year under the NCAA's Proposition 48 rules.
Currently players that were partial qualifiers are allowed to earn back the year of eligibility that they lost if they earn enough credits for a degree in four years.
The NCAA is expected to eventually pass a rule change that would offer non-qualifiers the same opportunity to earn the year back, but whether it will happen in time for Wadley is unclear.
Minuteman junior center Kitwana Rhymer would also benefit from the rule change.
Whether Mark Karcher will be back is also a question. As a junior he is guaranteed one more year of eligibility and as a Proposition 48 could gain another. But Karcher has been quoted as saying he'd consider leaving early citing the need to support his family.
Karcher is averaging 15.5 points per game and is considered a favorite of the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. He would likely be a late-first round or second round pick in the NBA draft.
* * *
While UMass' 12-for-24 free-throw shooting performance was among its worst efforts from the line this year, it was not their worst percentage from the line. The Minutemen survived a 35.2 percent free-throw night in their Dec. 6 win over Villanova at 6-for-17.
Even Monty Mack, who entered the game at 80.9 percent made just 1-of-4.
UMass also shot 50 percent against Marshall (5-for-10) and Fordham (17-for-34). The Minutemen's 62.9 percent from the line is next to last in the conference.
|Temple Owls (#8)||72|
MASSACHUSETTS (54) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Kirkland 35 2-11 5-9 2-3 1 2 10 Babul 39 1-7 2-5 5-9 2 2 4 Rhymer 35 2-4 2-2 5-7 0 4 6 Mack 40 7-17 1-4 0-6 1 2 20 Crooks 34 4-11 2-4 0-3 2 4 10 Depina 6 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 Smith 1 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 Brand 10 2-3 0-0 3-4 1 3 4 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 18-53 12-24 15-33 7 18 54 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.340, FT-.500. 3-Point Goals: 6-18, .333 (Kirkland 1-2, Babul 0-1, Mack 5-12, Crooks 0-3). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 3 (Kirkland, Rhymer, Brand). Turnovers: 13 (Kirkland 5, Babul 3, Crooks 2, Mack 2, Rhymer). Steals: 3 (Crooks, Kirkland, Mack). TEMPLE (72) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Karcher 27 1-10 1-2 0-3 2 3 3 Barnes 28 4-7 0-0 3-6 0 2 8 Lyde 27 3-5 0-0 5-10 0 3 6 P Sanchez 33 1-2 0-1 2-7 8 3 3 Wadley 32 4-10 10-10 1-4 0 1 21 K Sanders 20 1-7 2-4 1-3 0 2 4 Greer 23 6-11 3-4 1-1 3 2 17 Rollerson 6 2-2 0-0 0-1 0 1 4 Wesby 1 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 3 Thomas 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 0 0 Jefferson 1 1-2 1-2 1-1 0 1 3 Barry 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 24-57 17-23 14-36 15 18 72 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.421, FT-.739. 3-Point Goals: 7-23, .304 (Karcher 0-5, P Sanchez 1-2, Wadley 3-9, K Sanders 0-1, Greer 2-5, Wesby 1-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 5 (Lyde 3, Barnes 2). Turnovers: 10 (P Sanchez 4, Barnes, Karcher, Rollerson, Wadley). Steals: 10 (P Sanchez 4, Wadley 2, Barnes, Greer, K Sanders, Karcher). __________________________________ Massachusetts 27 27 - 54 Temple 24 48 - 72 __________________________________ Technical fouls: Massachusetts 1 (Bench). A: 9,714. Officials: Larry Lembo, Glenn Mayborg, Mark Distaola.