College Basketball Nation: Juan Fernandez

Previewing Nashville: Evening games

March, 16, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Now we turn our attention to Friday's evening session in Music City:

No. 4 Michigan (24-9) vs. No. 13 Ohio (27-7), 7:20 p.m. ET

What to watch: Anybody who’s watched John Beilein’s teams play offense at Michigan, and West Virginia before that, knows how frustrating it can be defending his system in the half-court. The Wolverines are going to shoot 3-pointers and layups and not a lot else. They’re also relentless with their high picks and backdoor cuts to the basket and don’t turn it over much -- only 10.9 turnovers per game. But in Ohio University, Michigan gets a team that doesn’t mind grinding it out on defense. The Bobcats like to trap and really challenge teams with their on-the-ball pressure. They’re forcing 17.7 turnovers per game and defend the 3-point shot as well as anybody in the country. Opponents are shooting just 29.6 percent from 3-point range against the Bobcats, who are 60-19 under John Groce when they hold opponents under 70 points.

Who to watch: Michigan point guard Trey Burke was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year by the media. He leads the Wolverines in scoring (14.8 points) and assists (4.6). He broke Michigan’s 27-year-old freshman record for assists in a season and has 151 entering the Ohio game; Gary Grant had the old record, dishing out 140 assists during the 1984-85 season. Burke had been pretty good at taking care of the ball until the 77-55 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, when he turned it over eight times. He also shot just 1-of-11 from the field in that game, so you know he’s been bouncing off the walls to get back onto the court.

Why to watch: Losing to Ohio State in anything is a nightmare for Michigan. So it goes without saying that the 22-point loss to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten tournament still stings. The only thing that could make it worse would be losing to Ohio University in the NCAA tournament. The good news for Michigan fans is that the Wolverines are 8-0 in games following losses this season. But Ohio comes into this game having won eight of its past nine games. “We’re playing with confidence right now. We’re playing together as a team," Ohio junior guard D.J. Cooper said. "We’re playing pretty good defense. That’s what we’ve been relying on all year. We’re going to stick together and stay together through the tournament."

What they’re saying: “This is Ohio versus Michigan, and it’s about two teams competing and that want the same thing, and that’s to survive and advance. Every guy on our team needs to be focused on their role to help Ohio do well.” --Ohio University coach John Groce

“I think everybody is in that same boat. All 68 teams are trying to get to that point where it just becomes magical for them, and it’s so much fun if they’re successful in that dream.” --Michigan coach John Beilein

Around the rim: Michigan is 11-0 this season when sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. shoots 50 percent from the field or better. ... Ohio junior guard Cooper is one of two Division I players over the past 12 years to have averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals over an entire season. ... Cooper, who’s left-handed, recorded the first triple-double in Ohio history earlier this season in a victory at Portland when he scored 14 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and handed out 10 assists. ... Cooper isn’t a great shooter. In fact, he’s shooting just 34.8 percent from the field this season. ... The Wolverines are 18-0 this season when leading at the half.

No. 5 Temple (24-7) vs. No. 12 South Florida (21-13), 9:50 p.m. ET

What to watch: Temple has won 13 of its past 15 games and sports a spiffy 24-7 record. The Owls are no stranger to the NCAA tournament, either: This is their fifth consecutive appearance. What they’d like to change is how long they hang around in the postseason. They haven’t won more than one game in the NCAA tournament since 2001, when they advanced to the Elite Eight under then-coach John Chaney. It’s Fran Dunphy’s show now, and the Owls have a veteran team built to make a deep run. They boast one of the more potent backcourts in college basketball and start three seniors and two juniors. All five starters average at least 9.1 points per game.

Who to watch: Temple senior guard Ramone Moore ranks second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 17.7 points per game. He’s one of three players on Temple’s team to have made 50 or more 3-pointers this season. Not only that, but Khalif Wyatt, Juan Fernandez and Moore shoot better than 38 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-4 Moore has scored in double figures in all but two games this season.

Why to watch: Forget jet lag. South Florida’s players insist they were ready to play after knocking off California in the first round late Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. The Bulls caught an early flight to Nashville on Thursday and said the short turnaround won’t be a problem. It was only a year ago that VCU came out of the first round and made it all the way to the Final Four. Plus, South Florida coach Stan Heath said, it’s not all bad to have already played a game. “We got our feet wet a little bit and got out there and maybe worked out the kinks and the nervousness and all those different things," Heath said. "The other team is a little more well-rested, may have a little more energy, but may not have the same rhythm that we may have from the previous game.”

What they’re saying: “We have to come out aggressive. They do a great job defensively. I mean, they held California to 13 points yesterday in the first half, which is great. But we’ve got to come out and play our basketball, got to make the extra pass, hit the open shots … and they don’t let you speed them up. They do a great job of getting their shots and slowing the game down.” --Temple guard Ramone Moore

“I said in Dayton that playing defense has kind of been our foundation. It really becomes a problem for a lot of teams. A lot of teams pride themselves on scoring 80 points or in the 70s, and they feel like if they can get to 80 points or in the 70s that they have a good chance of winning. For us, we feel like if we can keep them below the 60s that we have a good chance of winning.” --South Florida forward Ron Anderson Jr.

Around the rim: South Florida set the Big East Conference scoring defense record this season by allowing just 56.8 points per game. The Bulls have held 31 of their 34 opponents under 70 points. ... Anderson transferred to South Florida from Kansas State following the 2009 season. His other finalist when trying to decide where to continue his college basketball career was Temple. ... Heath said his players were wired following the 65-54 victory over Cal on Wednesday night. “I know the guys didn’t sleep much last night. They were watching 'SportsCenter' at 2 o’clock in the morning. They were watching each other’s dunks and getting excited. I was trying to put them to bed,” Heath joked. ... Dunphy said he heard someone say that going against South Florida’s defense was “like going to get a root canal.” ... Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, who faced South Florida in Big East play, said what makes the Bulls so good defensively is how well they rotate, and when they do, the guy rotating over is anywhere from 6-7 to 6-11. ... Temple will be joining the Big East in football next season and then in all sports in 2013-14.

PHILADELPHIA -- Temple took the subway to its basketball game on Wednesday night, hopping a ride on the Broad Street Line from North Philly to South, home of the Wells Fargo Center.

The ride was more symbolic than playful to head coach Fran Dunphy, a throwback homage to the university’s roots as a commuter school built for people who spent their days on campus and their nights holding down part-time jobs to pay their tuition.

Dunphy didn’t take the next step, comparing Temple to its blue-blooded opponent, Duke. But as he spoke with genuine reverence about his good friend Mike Krzyzewski and appreciation for a program that he considers the gold standard in college basketball, it was hard not to make the simplistic leap for him.

Temple is the lunch-pail team once personified by its wily old coach, John Chaney, and now embodied in its no-nonsense new boss. The campus is plopped on the edges of a tough Philly neighborhood and the program long has had to succeed with scrappers.

Duke is Krzyzewski, the wildly respected head coach who rarely looks ruffled, a campus with old, storied buildings and a program that long has had its pick of the basketball litter.

But if college basketball is nothing else, it is the great class equalizer. Privilege has its place ... it’s just not on the basketball court.

Temple upset the third-ranked Blue Devils on Wednesday, calling on its deepest reserves of grit and toughness to outmuscle and outhustle Duke, 78-73.

[+] EnlargeTemple's Khaliff Wyatt
Howard Smith/US PRESSWIREKhaliff Wyatt contributed 22 points and five steals as Temple celebrated a win over No. 3 Duke.
“We just had to play tough and we did,’’ said leading scorer Khalif Wyatt, who finished with 22 points and 5 steals for the Owls.

The loss puts the skids on Duke’s modest five-game win streak, a streak in which the Devils appeared to have found their defensive rhythm after a debacle against Ohio State on Nov. 29.

Krzyzewski wasn’t quite sure what to make of this game. He didn’t want to undersell what Temple did to his team, but also had to acknowledge that the team on the court wasn’t the one he’d seen in recent weeks.

“Come on, if I saw it coming I would have faked an illness instead of getting ill during the game,’’ Krzyzewski joked. “Whenever that happens, to me, the other team has the most to do with it. But we obviously didn’t play very well.’’

Meantime, the win gives Temple a signature victory to hang its at-large hat on. Now 10-3, the Owls had a good win against Wichita State and another versus struggling rival Villanova, but headed into a muddled and muddied Atlantic 10 season -- across town, Xavier continued its slide by losing to La Salle -- Temple needed something to distinguish itself.

This does that, plus it gives a team that sorely needed it a huge confidence injection. TU has been playing much of the season without two starters. Guard Scootie Randall hasn’t played at all and is likely to take a redshirt; big man Micheal Eric has appeared in only four games, though he’s expected back soon.

So it’s been a hodgepodge lineup for Dunphy. He’s had to ask players to play out of position, but has offered them little in the way of condolences.

“We’ve talked about how tough we have to be,’’ said Dunphy, whose team was coming off three straight close wins against the likes of Rice, Buffalo and Delaware. “We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. I know guys are playing against guys four inches bigger than them, but you know what? That’s the way it is.’’

And the way it was against Duke was simple to explain: Temple’s mix-and-match team played harder. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson poured in a season-high 17 points, Anthony Lee chipped in 11 plus three blocks and the three guys asked to do it all -- Wyatt, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez -- did the rest.

The three guards controlled the tempo and the pace, using their advantage off the dribble to score at the rim or keep Duke off balanced on the perimeter.

Temple built a 55-45 lead midway through the second half when Wyatt drained a 3, but minutes later, the Blue Devils sliced that advantage to just three points, 60-57. The Owls had no answer for Miles and Mason Plumlee, who scored nine in that pivotal stretch and finished with 17 and 16 respectively.

“The Plumlee brothers were a handful,’’ Dunphy said. “They were terrific inside and they were just a little bit too much for us to handle on a 40-minute game basis.’’

But on the next possession, Miles missed a jump shot, allowing the Owls to push. Moore set up for a 3-pointer on the wing, but just before he could launch it, Wyatt called out to him. The off-balance Moore somehow found Wyatt in the corner and Wyatt’s swished 3 sealed the deal for the Owls.

“I was open,’’ Wyatt said of his willingness to interrupt Moore midshot.

It was vintage Wyatt, a player who may personify this Temple team as much as Chaney did back in the day.

“He’s got huge ...’’ Dunphy said, pausing to find the proper, family-friendly word, “courage.’’

He’s also got a nonblinking green light from his coach, and that unwavering faith allows Wyatt the freedom to shoot fearlessly.

“A lot of coaches don’t let you play that way,’’ Wyatt said. “But he’s real generous and that lets you have that mindset to keep playing. As long as you're tough on defense, he lets you do what you want. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean.’’

Temple fans stormed the court after the game, enjoying their fourth win against a top-10 team in as many seasons.

That’s what happens, Dunphy explained, when you’re Duke. You exist in such rarefied air that other schools celebrate wildly when they beat you.

And then they grab their lunch pails, hop the subway and go back to work.

“Coach came into the locker room after the game and said, ‘Good win, but I’m worrying about Dayton now.' That’s the way it is,’’ Wyatt said.

Ramone Moore changes his mind on draft

April, 25, 2011
Temple leading scorer Ramone Moore has decided not to enter the NBA draft after a change of heart, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A day after the 6-foot-4 guard junior guard told the paper he would declare for the draft, he thought better of the decision, according to the report.
"It was basically a family decision," Moore said in a statement about changing his mind. "We talked it over this morning and I realized that my main focus was to stay in school, earn my degree, and play my senior year at Temple."

According to a source, Moore "decided to enter his senior year at Temple without any distractions. He didn't want to make coach Fran Dunphy mad.

"He didn't want to make it seem all about him and his dream to make it in the NBA. That would have distracted from the team and the team's goal."

Moore's return is great news for Dunphy and Temple coming off a 26-win season that ended with the Owls taking San Diego State to double-overtime in the NCAA tournament. Along with Moore, they return double-digit scorers Juan Fernandez, Scootie Randall and Khalif Wyatt. They should get 6-foot-11 Micheal Eric back in the lineup after he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a practice in February.

Temple also should be very interested in an upcoming draft decision, with Xavier leading scorer Tu Holloway undecided on whether to remain or withdraw from the draft and return to play for the defending A-10 regular season champs.

NCAA tournament crunch-time moments

March, 28, 2011
The NCAA tournament had plenty of excitement when it came down to crunch time. Let's look back at some of the memorable late-possession moments from the first two weeks:

In the East:
  • Luke Hancock's 3-pointer with 21 seconds left capped a George Mason comeback win over Villanova in the second round.
  • Brandon Knight's driving layup with two seconds remaining gave Kentucky a two-point win over Princeton in the second round.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom's 3-pointer with 27 seconds left helped push Marquette past Syracuse in the second round.
  • Washington's meltdown against North Carolina in the final few possessions that prevented the Huskies from tying the Tar Heels at the end of regulation in the third round.
  • Knight's 15-foot shot that sent Kentucky past Ohio State in the Sweet 16.

In the West:
  • Tennessee quit on the game in the second half and lost by 30 to Michigan.
  • Duke's Kyrie Irving made his only field goal against Michigan with 32 seconds left as he gave the Blue Devils a lead before the Wolverines' Darius Morris missed a game-tying runner at the buzzer.
  • Arizona's Derrick Williams blocked a potential game-tying bucket by Memphis in the final seconds.
  • Williams converted a three-point play with 9.6 seconds remaining to upset Texas after the Longhorns committed a five-second violation on an inbounds play.
  • Temple's Juan Fernandez nailed an off-balance 18-foot shot to beat Penn State in the second round after Talor Battle hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds left.

In the Southwest:
  • Down by two to Louisville, Morehead State's Demonte Harper went for the win and got it with a 3-pointer with 4.2 second left to beat the Cardinals in the second round.
  • VCU's Bradford Burgess converted a layup off an inbounds pass with 7.1 seconds left in overtime to knock off Florida State in the Sweet 16.

And in the Southeast:
  • Butler beat Old Dominion on a layup by Matt Howard at the buzzer.
  • Butler beat Pitt after Nasir Robinson fouled Howard on a rebound off a missed free-throw at the buzzer when the game was tied. Howard hits a free throw to win the third-round game.

And in the First Four:
  • UNC Asheville's Matt Dickey hit a 3-pointer with 10.5 seconds left that sent the game against Arkansas-Little Rock into overtime before Asheville won.

Preview: Saturday in Tucson

March, 19, 2011

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A look at Saturday's games in Tucson:

No. 7 seed Temple (26-7) vs. No. 2 seed San Diego State (33-2), 6:10 p.m. ET (TNT)

Temple and San Diego State both had a story and a game on Thursday. Both won games, so both stories are no longer front-and-center.

When Temple beat Penn State in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament, it won its first tournament game since 2001 and ended coach Fran Dunphy's record 11-game tournament losing streak. And when San Diego State beat Northern Colorado, it won its first tournament game. Period.

Those issues behind them, when the second-seeded Aztecs and seventh-seeded Owls meet today, it will only be about advancing to the Sweet 16. It will be about basketball.

"As soon as we walked out of the locker room we knew it was time to turn the page on this chapter of San Diego State basketball and start focusing on what's possible in the future," SDSU point guard D.J. Gay said. "And that's Saturday."

Oh, there is one other angle: Revenge.

In the 1994-95 season, Dunphy took his Penn Quakers to Ann Arbor and beat then-Michigan coach Steve Fisher, now the Aztecs coach.

"I think the referees cost us the game," Fisher quipped.

By the way, Fisher and Dunphy are good buddies.

The setup: San Diego State wants to run. Temple doesn't. The Aztecs are bigger in the frontcourt. The Owls are bigger in the backcourt. San Diego State is deeper. Five Temple players played 30 or more minutes against Penn State, and forward Lavoy Allen never left the game. Eight Aztecs played at least 10 minutes against Northern Colorado and just three played 30 or more minutes. Of course, SDSU won in a blowout. And it would help the Owls if they can get quality minutes out of forward Scootie Randall.

Who to watch: San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard is a force inside and averages a double-double, but he's merely the headliner for one of the nation's top frontcourts. Team captain and point guard D.J. Gay has a 4-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. For Temple, Juan Fernandez hit the game winner against Penn State and scored 23 points, as did Ramone Moore, who dominated the second half. Allen is the key figure inside for the Owls.

Why to watch: This will be a big-stage test against a quality foe for San Diego State to prove it deserves a No. 2 seed and is a legitimate Final Four contender. It's also a test of basketball styles. You might even wonder if fans will start competing chants of "East Coast" and "West Coast."

What they're saying:

Gay on Temple trying to slow down San Diego State's fast tempo: "We definitely try and play an uptempo game, try to speed it up. When teams try to slow it down on us, we might come out more aggressive on the defensive end. Try to cause more turnovers or do anything to help speed the game up. But I think speeding the game up can be done on the defensive end."

Fernandez on slowing down the Aztecs: "Well, like I just said before, we're a team that tries to slow down the ball a little bit, play more halfcourt offense and defense. That is where we feel more comfortable. On the other hand, they prefer to play an uptempo game and go up and down and try to get as many fast-break points as they can. So we will have to try to establish ourselves and play our rhythm."

Fernandez on his game winner against Penn State: "That shot was big yesterday. But we already celebrated. There is not too much you can do about it now. We just got to win tomorrow."

Moore on if San Diego State is similar to a team Temple has played: "I would say they're unique. I can't remember any teams that we played similar to the style of play they like to play."

Dunphy on Leonard: "He is a tough matchup for us. Especially if we have to play three guards, and [freshman] Aaron Brown will probably start on him and that's going be a tough matchup for Aaron Brown. We'll need to help him greatly. When Scootie gets in, he'll probably play him and Scoot's not used to playing over the last month. So he is a very difficult matchup for us, there's no question about it."

Dunphy on Scootie Randall's health: "I think yesterday we gave him the opportunity, as I said before, he deserved that opportunity to get in there yesterday. He had actually run full court on Tuesday and looked pretty good. Wednesday a little bit  we didn't run real hard on Wednesday, but gave him a little bit of a run there. And he ran a little bit full court again today. And we just finished our practice. So we'll do the same thing, put him in midway through the first half and see if he's more comfortable out there and he's helping us, then he can stay out there."

No. 5 seed Kansas St. (23-10) vs. No. 4 seed Wisconsin (24-8), approx. 8:40 p.m. ET (TNT)

As point guard showdowns go, it doesn't get much better than Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor versus Kansas State's Jacob Pullen.

Taylor averages 18 points and 4.7 assists. Pullen averages 19.5 points and 3.7 assists. Both earned first-team all-conference honors, Taylor in the Big Ten and Pullen in the Big 12. Pullen is the first Wildcat to earn first-team honors twice and was one of two unanimous picks this year. Taylor leads the nation with a 4.20 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Both said the round of 32 tilt between the Badgers and Wildcats is not about them. But both admitted to being aware of the matchup. And if they weren't, reporters were there to graciously remind them.

"Any time you play players like that, it definitely bring out the best in you," Taylor said. "You definitely have to bring your A-game. But at the end of the day it's about the team. They're not going to say Jacob Pullen moved on or Jon Leuer or Jordan Taylor moved on. So you definitely relish the challenge. It makes it fun to play against players like that. But, at the same time, it's all about what's on the front of your jersey."

While it's not really about a battle of point guards, it sort of is. Both are the engines of their respective teams on both ends of the floor. Pullen, in fact, seemed like a one-man team at times this season -- see his 27-point average over the final six regular-season games when the Wildcats were fighting for a spot in the tournament. And Taylor is the fulcrum of Bo Ryan's "swing offense."

Further, tempo will be critical in the matchup. The Wildcats and Pullen want to play fast. The Badgers and Taylor want to slow it down. And each will be trying to push his counterpart out of his comfort zone.

"We've got to do a great job of defending the ball screen and keeping [Taylor] in a position where he doesn't know what kind of defense we're playing, whether we're trapping it or soft hedging the ball screen," Pullen said. "The other thing is we really got to make him guard. Whoever he is guarding, we got to make sure he plays 36, 37 minutes a game. We got to make sure he is using his energy on both ends not only on offensive end."

One problem for Kansas State: It isn't easy to dictate tempo to Wisconsin, though many have tried, and Kansas State coach Frank Martin said as much.

"If you can speed up a Bo Ryan team, it will probably be the first time in 30 years that happens," Martin said. "Our challenge is to not allow Jordan Taylor to get comfortable. To not let him get in rhythm. And No. 2 is to keep him out of the paint. Because when he gets in the paint, then he forces help and then he finds shooters."

As for defending Pullen, Ryan doesn't see it that way exactly. While the Badgers largely play man-to-man defense, just like the Wildcats, it's still more team than individual.

"We don't get into a lot of, 'It's you against you, or you got to take him and you got to shut him down,'" Ryan said. "We don't do that because our defense is predicated on help. We always want to get five guys guarding three guys. That is our goal all the time. Learned that at a night clinic in Valley Forge, Pa., in the early '70s, and it still works."

Who to watch: Other than the point guards? There are a couple of bigs of note. For Wisconsin, it's Leuer, who leads the Badgers with 18.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He'll be matched with Curtis Kelly, who averages 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Why to watch: It's another interesting contrast of styles, with the Wildcats hoping for a fast-paced frenzy, and the Badgers preferring the half-court game. Both will try to impose their will on the other. The Badgers turned the ball over only 229 times this season versus 479 from Kansas State. And the Badgers are better at the free throw line, leading the nation with an .827 percentage versus .647 for the Wildcats. Of course, the Wildcats hit 86 percent of their free throws in their win over Utah State.

What they're saying:

Taylor on hearing that K-State will try to speed things up: "I think we have to do exactly what they're trying to do, play at our own pace. Play at the pace that we're comfortable with."

Leuer on Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels: "From what I've seen, they can do a lot. They're both very active and long and athletic. They have good touch around the basket. They're physical. And we're going to have to do our best to try to limit their touches and not let them get into a rhythm. And the more we can keep the ball out of there and not let them get deep post position... that's what you want to do against anybody, not let them get deep post position. But those guys, especially because they're going to make it hurt if they get it down there."

Ryan on Kansas State's physical offensive rebounding: "Well, contact's a good thing. You got to enjoy contact, physically to block people out. We're not going to outjump them. I don't think lengthwise we're going to be any longer than them. So you just got to do what you do every day in practice. Require guys to put a body on somebody. Don't let somebody get an angle. And be willing to dig in. I'm sure the other teams that play against them have said that, too. Then you got to go out and do it."

Pullen on the KSU scoring record: "When I'm done playing basketball at Kansas State and I get a chance to actually sit down and look back, I think it will mean a lot then and I'll really cherish it more. But right now I don't want to jinx myself and I don't want to know how close I am because that is the wrong focus."

Martin on narrowing his player rotation: "My job is to help our team win. And if guys don't deserve to play, it's not charity. You know, they better practice well or they're not going to wear a uniform."

Martin on his team: "Our kids acted this season like I wish our society would act. That means that when things get hard, they don't pass blame. They don't run away from it. They don't roll their eyes. They don't quit. Which is a great word in today's society, 'quit.' Contrary, our guys handle stuff with loyalty, with honesty, with commitment. Those are the words I grew up on. And, unfortunately, our society's turned some in today's day and age. I'm just happy our kids didn't pay attention to society and they stuck to the values that I believe in."

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."
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Temple won its first NCAA tournament game since 2001, but it might be even bigger than that because Owls coach Fran Dunphy is no longer yoked with an 11-game tournament losing streak.

After a thrilling 66-64 win over Penn State in the second round of the West Region, Dunphy's winning streak sits at one, with potential to grow.

Turning point: Both teams produced clutch shots at the end, but Temple got the ball last. Just after a 3-pointer from Penn State's outstanding point guard Talor Battle tied the game at 64-64 with 14 seconds left, Owls guard Juan Fernandez answered with a short jumper in the lane just before the buzzer.

Key player: Fernandez ruled the first half, but Ramone Moore surged in the second half in the back-and-forth affair. Fernandez scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half, while Moore scored 17 of his 23 in the second half.

Key stat: Temple's bench outscored Penn State's 10-2.

Miscellaneous: The Owls were 13-of-15 from the charity stripe. Penn State was just 4-of-6 and didn't shoot a free throw in the second half... Dunphy entered the game 1-12 all-time in the tournament and 0-3 with the Owls.

What's next: On Saturday, Temple will play the winner of No. 2 San Diego State versus No. 15 Northern Colorado, which tips off at 4:40 p.m.

Final: Richmond 89, Xavier 85 (OT)

March, 13, 2010
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Some final thoughts as No. 3 Richmond (26-7) beat No. 2 Xavier (24-8) in the second Atlantic-10 semifinal here at Boardwalk Hall. The Spiders advanced to face No. 1 Temple (28-5) in Sunday's conference title game at 1 p.m. ET.

  • No offense to Temple but I'd take a rematch of this game tomorrow afternoon. Great emotion. Great drama. Great theater.
  • Kevin Anderson's driving layup with 3.1 seconds left tied the game at 73 and sent it to overtime. Then the Spiders seized the momentum and advanced to Sunday's final. In the extra session Richmond was 4-of-5 from the floor -- including 2-of-2 from 3 -- and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Conversely Xavier went just 2-for-11 from the field in overtime.
  • Anderson, the A-10 player of the year, was money in OT. The junior scored eight of his game-high 27 points on 2-of-3 shooting -- including 4-for-4 from the line.
  • Richmond beat Temple 71-54 on Feb. 6 in Virginia. But the Owls didn't have Juan Fernandez in the lineup and there's no reason to believe Sunday's final won't be a wire job.
  • Xavier isn't the same team when sophomore guard Terrell Holloway isn't on the floor. When he was in foul trouble his absence was felt. Beyond his ability, it's his attitude and swagger that helps to define the Musketeers. Case in point: Richmond took a 56-55 lead with 8:46 left for the Spiders' first lead in the second half. Next possession Holloway buried a 3 to regain the lead for XU. And remember that Holloway is the one who went to knock the ball out of the hands of Dayton's Rob Lowery after a timeout on Friday night, producing the technical foul that effectively ended the Flyers' season.

Video: Temple coach Dunphy on Fernandez

March, 13, 2010

Temple coach Fran Dunphy talks about what makes guard Juan Fernandez such a unique asset for the Owls.

Halftime: Temple 34, Rhode Island 17

March, 13, 2010
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Some quick halftime thoughts as No. 1 Temple (27-5) and No. 5 Rhode Island (23-8) play in the first Atlantic-10 semifinal.

  • Just like Friday’s quarterfinal game vs. St. Bonaventure, Temple’s Juan Fernandez had another great start. The 6-foot-2 sophomore guard opened up by hitting a 3; then tied up URI center 7-0 center Will Martell for jump ball; followed up with a pair of runners in the lane; assisted on a Micheal Eric lay-in; and then hit a driving baseline runner. At that point it was 11-2 Temple and Fernandez had 9 points on 4 of 4 shooting and 1 assist.
  • Temple closed out the half with its largest lead of the game (17 points); URI has a long way to go before it can think about a lead. First, the Runnin' Rams better figure out how to shoot. URI was a dreadful 7-for-30 (.233) from the floor. Temple was 13 of 23 (.565) from the field. That's the difference in this game.
  • Ryan Brooks leads Temple with 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting. Martell’s 4 points lead Rhode Island’s scoring.
  • The first half was delayed approximately 10 minutes because of a leak in the roof. The delay occurred with 13:49 left and Temple leading 11-2. Even after play resumed, Boardwalk Hall maintenance workers were toweling off the spot near center court the next several stoppages of play. There is a significant Nor’easter hitting the Eastern seaboard this weekend with the heavy rain expected to continue through Sunday. I wonder if there’s a leak at the Palestra in Philadelphia (where I think this tourney should be played)?
  • Houston's surprising win over UTEP in the Conference USA final has put the Cougars in the field of 65. And it conversely has moved Rhode Island to outside looking in status in Joe Lunardi's latest Bracket Math. That should provide better motivation than anything URI coach Jim Baron could say in the locker room. Let's see if/how Rhody responds.

Previewing the A-10 semifinals

March, 13, 2010
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- It’s another dreary, rainy and windswept day here in this gritty seaside city. In other words, a perfect excuse to hang out at Boardwalk Hall this afternoon to watch what should be two great games in the Atlantic-10 semifinals.

Three of the top four seeds advanced to the A-10’s final four, and in fact it’s the first time the top three seeds advanced this far since 2006. Temple, Xavier and Richmond are NCAA tourney locks and No. 5 Rhode Island woke up this morning as the last team in the field of 65 in Joe Lunardi’s Bubble Math.

No. 1 Temple (27-5) vs. No. 5 Rhode Island (23-8), 1 p.m. ET

What’s at stake: Temple is the only team still here in AC with a winning record (15-9) in the semifinal round. But the A-10 regular-season champion (Temple has the honor this season) hasn’t won the conference tourney title since George Washington in 2005. The Owls are the two-time defending champion in this tournament while the Rams won their only conference title way back in 1999.

Who has the edge: Temple is 2-0 against Rhody this year, including a tough four-point overtime win (68-64) in Kingston, R.I., on Jan. 10 and a 78-56 walk in Philly on Feb. 13. URI played its best defensive game of the season in beating Saint Louis on Friday but the Rams will have to come up with an even better effort against the well-rounded and versatile Owls. Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez present a challenging inside-outside attack to defend. And URI better be prepared to pound the glass like it did against SLU.

Statistically speaking: Temple has won seven consecutive A-10 tournament games and the Owls are now 7-1 all-time in conference tourney games played at Boardwalk Hall. The Owls also come in with a current eight-game winning streak.

-- The 63 points scored by Rhode Island on Friday were the fewest for the Rams in a win this season (they also scored 63 when beating Oklahoma St. 63-59 on Jan. 2). And the 47 points allowed by URI were the fewest for a Rams opponent this season (best the 57 allowed vs. Brown in the season-opening 78-57 win).

Quotable: “They are a very good top 20 team. Excellent players, great coach. They have excellent chemistry and its going to be an excellent challenge for us. We are looking forward to it. We have to be ready intense wise as the [Temple] crowd will be here. But, again, that is what you play for. Our guys are looking forward to the challenge.” -- Rhode Island coach Jim Baron

No. 2 Xavier (24-7) vs. No. 3 Richmond (25-7), 3:30 p.m. ET

What’s at stake: The bad news is that Xavier is just 3-6 in this round of A-10 play. The good news is that all three semifinal round wins eventually became conference tournament championships as the Musketeers are a perfect 3-0 in A-10 title games. Richmond has only played in one A-10 final (a 73-60 loss to XU in ’02) and is just 1-1 in the semifinal round.

Who has the edge: Xavier needed double overtime to beat Richmond (78-76) on Feb. 28 in Cincinnati. Here’s hoping the rematch is that good. The Musketeers had the tougher quarterfinal game as they erased a 15-point second-half deficit against Dayton on Friday night. When it counted, guard Terrell Holloway delivered, as he drew the decisive technical foul against Dayton’s Rob Lowery to effectively seal the XU win. Against Richmond last month, Holloway scored seven of his team high 24 points in the second OT.

Statistically speaking: Xavier has advanced to the A-10 semifinals for an eighth consecutive season and the Musketeers have won eight straight and 12 of their last 13 games.

-- Richmond is 4-0 on neutral courts this season and comes into Saturday’s game having won three straight and 11 of its last 12.

Quotable: “I think we are looking forward to the rematch because at the end of the regulation it was a dead heat and they were able to win the game in overtime. We’re looking forward to it. I know they’ll be ready. I know they’ll be prepared. I know they’re a great program. We’re just pleased to be able to advance and try to play Xavier again.” -- Richmond coach Chris Mooney

Video: Temple's Juan Fernandez

March, 12, 2010

Guard Juan Fernandez talks about how this Temple team has many options on offense and is comfortable taking what opponents give the Owls.

Final: Temple 69, St. Bonaventure 51

March, 12, 2010
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Some final thoughts as top seed Temple beat St. Bonaventure 69-51 to open up quarterfinal play in the A-10 tourney here at Boardwalk Hall. Up next for the Owls is a semifinal matchup on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET against the winner of the No. 4 Saint Louis-No. 5 Rhode Island game.

  • Temple (27-5) presents matchup problems on the defensive end. And the Owls are perfectly happy to take what you give them. They can play walk it up and play halfcourt. They can transition if the opportunity presents itself. Lock down the lane and Juan Fernandez can bury 3s. Matchup against them on the perimeter and good luck dealing with 6-foot-9 forward Lavoy Allen down on the blocks. That versatility will serve them well the rest of this weekend and once the NCAA tournament starts.
  • Allen finished with an impressive double-double of 14 points and 15 rebounds -- not to mention 4 assists. And Fernandez was not far behind with 17 points and 8 assists. The Bonnies were led by sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.
  • No matter how well things are going, you can count on Temple coach Fran Dunphy to be scowling on the sideline. Sometimes he stands with his arms crossed and sometimes he crouches or is on one knee. And to complement that he mixes in equal amounts of admonishment and encouragement. He’s the personification of old school and his team has bought into his system and executes it well. And the Owls show up to play, which can’t be said about every ranked team. It would have been easy to coast through this game against an overmatched team but Temple kept playing hard on both ends of the floor.
  • St. Bonaventure finished the season at 15-16. Not a step forward from last year’s 15-15 campaign but third-year coach Mark Schmidt appears to have the Bonnies headed in the right direction. And considering where that program has been in the last decade, at least it wasn’t a step backward.

Halftime: Temple 39, St. Bonaventure 27

March, 12, 2010
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Some quick halftime thoughts as top seed Temple and St. Bonaventure open up quarterfinal play in the A-10 tourney here at Boardwalk Hall:

  • The Owls, who are the Atlantic 10’s only ranked team at No. 17, haven’t played in a week but it didn’t show early on as they jumped out to a 24-8 lead just shy of the midway point of the first half. From that point on the Bonnies actually outscored Temple 19-15. But that could have something to do with Fran Dunphy’s club easing off the throttle a bit once it established control.
  • Not surprisingly, Temple has the advantage in nearly every statistical category. The Owls hit 50 percent from the floor (17-34) and were 4-of-11 from 3-point range. More impressive is the 13 to 3 assist-to-turnover ratio and the 24 to 16 points in the paint advantage. The Owls have three players in double figures, led by guard Juan Fernandez’s 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting (3-for-4 from 3). The leading scorer for St. Bonaventure is forward Andrew Nicholson who has 8 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.
  • The key to the second half for Temple is to put the game away without incident or injury and get rested for Saturday’s semifinal against the winner of No. 4 Saint Louis and No. 5 Rhode Island. For the Bonnies to make this a game, they will have to continue hitting at a 50 percent clip from 3-point range, but do so in much larger quantities than the 3-for-6 effort in the first half.

Six coaching jobs deserving recognition

January, 28, 2010
It is pretty easy to spot the best coaching jobs simply by looking at the top of the polls. John Calipari, Jamie Dixon, Jim Boeheim and Bill Self would be at the top of any list of the best coaching performances of the season.

But a great coach once told me that some of the best coaching jobs in the country each year are done by coaches that get their teams to .500 with less, and make lesser talent competitive. This season, there are quite a few coaches who have done great jobs outside of the intense spotlight. Here are a few of the best ones in my judgment:

[+] EnlargeTony Bennett
Geoff Burke/US PresswireTony Bennett has the Cavaliers off to a 12-5 start.
Tony Bennett, Virginia: Bennett has taken a proud Virginia program back to its roots of chest-to-chest defense. His “pack” defense is really just gap protection D, which emphasizes help and the protection of the paint and limiting opponents to one difficult shot. Virginia does not play to high possession totals right now, but will in time. Bennett has also brought ball security to Charlottesville, as the Cavaliers do not turn the ball over. Bennett is the real thing, and Virginia is now competitive under his leadership.

Frank Martin, Kansas State: No team I have seen plays harder than Martin’s Wildcats. Kansas State plays pressure defense, gets out in passing lanes and does a really good job of getting into you and taking away what you want to do. Without Martin’s insistence upon playing so hard and so together, none of it would work. He is trusted by his players and they respond to his challenges. Nobody expected K-State to challenge Kansas and Texas in the Big 12, except maybe Martin.

Johnny Dawkins, Stanford: The second year of any tenure is usually the toughest. The lagging recruiting of the last regime can hit then, and it is sometimes a season to simply weather the storm. In the preseason, Stanford was picked 10th in the Pac-10, and that was with Josh Owens, the dynamic interior athlete. He is gone for the season after not being medically cleared, but Dawkins has done a masterful job to make the Cardinal competitive by scaling back his defense and opening up his offense. Landry Fields has never been the best player on his team at any time in his life, yet he may be the best player in the Pac-10 under Dawkins. With only two reliable scorers in Fields and Jeremy Green, Stanford is 4-3 in the league heading into two road trips to Arizona and Los Angeles. If the Cardinal can steal a few on the road, which no Pac-10 team has been able to do, they can make some noise in a quiet league. With a top 10 recruiting class on the way, Dawkins has a bright future.

Gary Williams, Maryland: How is it that Williams takes so much heat? He has been the most competitive guy against Duke and North Carolina that the ACC has seen, and this season, Williams has the Terps right at the top of the league. He has good guards and has developed his young big guys. Maryland has a top-10 offense and the identity of a blue-collar team that looks out for each other. When many teams are struggling to find an identity, the Terps have one under Williams. He has done another great job.

Mike Davis, UAB: The Blazers lost player after player, yet Davis has made UAB a top-20 team because of a greater emphasis on defense. With Elijah Milsap and Howard Crawford, Davis has two hard-working and good players that have embraced defense and a more controlled approach. The Blazers are not an up-and-down team that tries to outscore you -- they try to simply beat you with good, hard-nosed defense. So far, it’s working.

Fran Dunphy, Temple: After doing such a great job at Penn, many wondered whether Dunphy would be embraced at Temple. No worries, because Dunphy is a great teacher and great coach who takes the long view and puts the kids first. He has molded a top-10 defense that limits opponents to one shot and plays hard without fouling. In other words, Temple is disciplined. The Owls do the right thing at the right time, and do it to the best of their ability. With Juan Fernandez as a better-shooting Pepe Sanchez -- and Ryan Brooks and Lavoy Allen contributing in many ways -- Temple is very dangerous. Remember, Dunphy’s squad is the only one this season that has figured out Villanova.