Dunphy ends streak in dramatic fashion

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
6:01
PM ET


TUCSON, Ariz. -- Temple's Fran Dunphy doesn't do giddy. He's not going to pull a Dick Vermeil and cry you a rain forest. He is an ace with the occasional "harrumph." So it shouldn't be unexpected that he downplayed the dismissal of a bothersome monkey from his shoulders on Thursday in the McKale Center.

Monkey? An 11-game NCAA tournament losing streak is probably the equivalent, for a basketball coach, of a creature who would make King Kong scamper away in terror.

But after Dunphy's junior point guard Juan Fernandez feathered in a fall-away jumper just before the buzzer to beat state rival Penn State 66-64 in a second-round West Region game, that losing streak -- the worst in tournament history -- is over.

"I probably think about it less than others do," Dunphy said just before the slightest pause. "But you think about it."

It was a game befitting such a red-letter moment, featuring 20 lead changes. Just moments before Fernandez became the latest tournament hero to produce a shining moment that will be replayed endlessly over the coming years, it appeared Penn State's high-scoring guard Talor Battle might earn the honor. He drilled a long 3-pointer to tie the game with 14 seconds left.

While the Owls went bonkers after winning their first tournament game since 2001, Battle, Penn State's all-time leading scorer, sat on the floor for several moments and took in the celebration. His first trip to the tournament with the Nittany Lions ended suddenly, even though he scored 23 points.

"For the rest of my life, I'll know that we didn't just come out here and get beat," Battle said of the ending. "It took a heck of a shot from Fernandez to beat us. I bet you one thing. For the rest of our lives, we'll be able to watch the 2011 one shining moment and always have to see that shot."

Fernandez scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half. In fact, it was Ramone Moore who kept the Owls in the game, scoring 17 of his 23 in the second half.

"I kind of got on a roll," Moore said. "And I think my teammates noticed that. During the timeout, Coach said, 'Let's get the ball in Ramone's hands,' and running plays for me. And I think I capitalized."

Dunphy isn't above looking to his players for their thoughts. Guard Khalif Wyatt, who did a good job pressuring Battle much of the afternoon, piped in with a suggestion for the final play.

Said Dunphy, "We called timeout, we were discussing what to run and Khalif Wyatt, who I listen to all the time -- he's got sage advice for me often -- said, 'I think we need to just put it in Juan's hands. Then if he is not ready to do it, then Juan will give it to Ramone, and that's how we'll win the game.'"

Temple, the No. 7 seed, improved to 26-7. It advances to play the winner of the San Diego State-Northern Colorado game. Penn State finishes its season at 19-15.

Most of the numbers from the game were fairly even -- rebounding, turnovers, field goal percentage -- but two numbers stood out. The Temple bench outscored Penn State's 10-2, and the Owls connected on 13 of 15 free throws compared to just four of six for the Nittany Lions, who didn't go to the charity stripe in the second half.

Penn State also took a blow early in the second half when senior forward Jeff Brooks went down with a shoulder injury. He was the team's second-leading scorer and top rebounder.

"Jeff Brooks is a big part of what we do offensively; we try to give him the ball around the basket," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "We really didn't get to the free throw line tonight at all. And he usually is the guy we try to get the ball to around the basket to get fouled and get to the free throw line and also rebound the basketball. So that got us a little sideways for awhile. But that's not an excuse."

Dunphy has 419 career wins, but only one before Thursday in the tournament. His 1-12 tournament record and .077 winning percentage were the all-time worst for a coach with at least eight games coached, according to STATS LLC.

The Penn State players looked stunned by the turn of events -- a season put to bed with a buzzer-beating shot. Of course, Dunphy knows about as well as anyone how they feel. So if he seemed a bit neutral about ending his losing streak, it might be because he's sympathetic. Or perhaps he just isn't sure what to feel just yet.

"So nice to see Juan make that shot," he said. "I had a good feeling when it left his hands that I thought it was going to go in. Might have been our time. That's all, just our time."

Ted Miller | email

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