Atlantic 10 Championship Preview: Temple Going For Third Straight Title

Preview courtesy of Sports Network.

GAME NOTES: Gunning for their ninth Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament title, the third in as many seasons, the 17th-ranked and top-seeded Temple Owls take the floor at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City this afternoon against third- seeded Richmond.

The Owls, who are attempting to become only the second team in the A-10 to ever win three straight tourney titles after the five in a row posted by UMass from 1992-96, haven't been truly challenged in this year's event. The squad opened with a 69-51 defeat of eighth-seeded St. Bonaventure on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals and then moved on to a 57-44 victory against Rhode Island on Saturday. With the triumphs, Temple is now 51-19 in the tournament all-time.

As for the Spiders, currently an even 8-8 in this event since joining the league, they have yet to bring home the trophy. Then again, this is just the second trip to the title game for the program following a 72-60 loss to Xavier back in 2002. Ironically, it was an 89-85 overtime victory against those same Musketeers yesterday that propelled Richmond into the tournament finale.

The Spiders have tied the school-record for the most wins in a single season and have defeated four straight ranked opponents, with their eye on making it five this afternoon in Atlantic City.

Of Temple's two conference losses this season, one was at the hands of the Spiders in a 71-54 final in Virginia back on February 6th, the last time the Owls also lost any outcome. As a result, the all-time series now numbers 8-7 in favor of Temple.

After getting to overtime against Xavier yesterday, the Spiders had little trouble disposing of the Musketeers as they shot 4-of-5 from the floor and a perfect 2-of-2 behind the three-point line and 6-of-6 at the charity stripe to seal the deal. All-conference performer David Gonzalvez posted 26 points, converting all but one of his 14 free-throw attempts, while adding five assists and four rebounds. Just ahead of Gonzalvez in the scoring column was Kevin Anderson, who logged a game-high 27 points as he made good on 10-of-21 shots from the field. Playing a significant role off the bench was Dan Geriot with 11 points in a mere 16 minutes, while fellow reserve Francis Martel tacked on 10 points and eight rebounds. Richmond, which has played three overtime games in the last five outings overall, is led in scoring by Anderson and his 17.9 ppg, having made more shots at the free-throw line (122-of-147) than all but one of his teammates has attempted this season. Gonzalvez accounts for another 14.7 ppg having made good on a team-best 73 three-point attempts. The defense for the Spiders has held opponents to just 39.2 percent shooting from the field, 29.3 percent out on the perimeter and 62.4 ppg overall.

Sticking with the starters for as much as possible, the Owls had little worry as they easily took care of Rhode Island on Saturday afternoon by double figures. In fact, Temple ran out to a commanding 15-2 lead and never looked back as the defense held URI to just seven total field goals in the first half and 27.1 percent shooting from the floor overall in the contest. The Owls themselves had some issues from the field in the second half with just five field goals, but the squad hit on 12-of-20 at the free-throw line to keep their distance. Ryan Brooks was responsible for 16 points, Juan Fernandez 14 and seven assists, while Lavoy Allen came up a point shy of logging another double-double as he cleared a team-best 10 rebounds. Winners of nine in a row, the Owls have had a different leading scorer in each of the last four outings, a testament to the team's balanced scoring attack. Brooks tops the scoring list with his 14.3 ppg, followed by Fernandez and Allen with 12,4 and 11.7 ppg, respectively. While the points can be evenly divided in any given contest, Allen is easily the leader in the paint for Temple with his 10.9 rpg. In fact, in the meeting last month against Richmond the big man was a beast in the paint with not only 17 points, but also a game-high 19 rebounds.

The manner in which each of these teams won on Saturday will probably dictate how they will perform today as they both try to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Given that Temple is nationally ranked it probably means the Owls are already in the tourney, which should ease the stress of the Philly- based squad.

GAME NOTES: Gunning for their ninth Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament title, the third in as many seasons, the 17th-ranked and top-seeded Temple Owls take the floor at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City this afternoon against third- seeded Richmond.

FACTS & STATS: Site: Boardwalk Hall (10,500) -- Atlantic City, New Jersey. Television: CBS. Home Record: Richmond 14-1, Temple 13-1. Away Record: Richmond 7-6, Temple 12-3. Neutral Record: Richmond 5-0, Temple 3-1. Conference Record: Richmond 13-3, Temple 14-2. Series Record: Temple leads, 8-7.

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