Atlantic City, NJ (Sports Network) - Juan Fernandez led all scorers with 18 points, as 17th-ranked Temple held on to claim its third straight Atlantic 10 Conference title with a 56-52 win over Richmond at Boardwalk Hall and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Ryan Brooks and Ramone Moore each finished with 12 points for Temple (29-5), which defeated St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island to get to the A-10 final. Lavoy Allen chipped in with a game-best 11 rebounds to go along with four points for the Owls, who earned their ninth A-10 title. Temple is seeded No. 5 in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament and will play No. 12 Cornell on Friday in Jacksonville.
"We are thrilled to be representing the A-10 as the champion," Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. "I want to congratulate Richmond, their defense was great. We really didn't get much going in the last seven or eight minutes. We struggled, but, these guys (Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez) bailed us out. We are thrilled to be going to the NCAA tournament again representing a great university and a great league."
Kevin Anderson had 14 points for Richmond (26-8), which defeated Massachusetts and Xavier on the way to the tourney final. Justin Harper ended with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Ryan Butler also donated 10 points for the Spiders. Despite the loss, Richmond still earned a trip to the Big Dance and will be the No. 7 seed in the South Region, taking on No. 10 Saint Mary's on Thursday in Providence.
"First off, I would like to congratulate Temple," Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said. "I think one of the hardest things to do is win the regular season and postseason championship. They are a great team and it is a great accomplishment. I am proud of my team and our players."
Temple held a four-point lead at the half and extended it to 44-32 with 12:06 to play following consecutive triples by Brooks. Then, with the Owls ahead 49-41 with 6:33 left, Butler made a layup and Anderson added a three-point play and tip-in for eight unanswered points to get the Spiders to within 49-48 with 1:20 to go.
With Temple holding a three-point edge, 53-50, David Gonzalvez missed a long three-pointer with 11 seconds to play and Moore iced it with two makes from the stripe.
Temple scored the first seven points off the opening tip and played the front- runner for the majority of the half. Harper's jumper was able to pull Richmond even temporarily at 15-all with 8:37 left before Moore answered with back-to- back three-pointers for the Owls. TU took a 29-25 advantage into the locker room.
Temple improved to 52-19 all-time in the A-10 Tournament...The Owls became 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...Temple is now 9-7 in the all-time series versus Richmond.