No. 16 Temple holds off Xavier 77-72

January 20, 2010 6:44:12 PM PST
Ryan Brooks scored 22 points, Lavoy Allen had 16 and No. 16 Temple beat Xavier in a matchup of Atlantic 10 unbeatens, 77-72 on Wednesday night.

The Owls (16-3, 4-0 Atlantic 10) won their fifth straight game and are off to their best start since they also opened the 1993-94 season 16-3. Juan Fernandez scored 15 points for the Owls, who knocked off the three-time defending league champions.

Temple won the past two A-10 tournaments to earn automatic NCAA bids. At this rate, the Owls won't need to win that championship game to secure a spot in the field of 65.

Jordan Crawford scored 18 points and Jason Love had 16 for Xavier (12-6, 4-1).

Brooks, Fernandez and Allen have all helped the Owls climb the national rankings and enjoy their best season in 16 years. But it's defense where Temple has carved an identity. The Owls ranked third nationally in defense (55.5 points per game) entering the game and held a Musketeers offense that scored in the 50s only once this season below that number until late.

The Musketeers got hot late in the final two minutes and made the Owls sweat out this victory.

Brad Redford hit two clutch 3-pointers - he was left open in the corner on the second one - that sliced the deficit to 71-68 with 23.4 seconds left.

Brooks, Temple's newly minted 1,000-point scorer, calmly made two free throws for a 73-70 lead. Brooks, who nearly fumbled away the ball before he was fouled on a press, hit two more and the Owls could finally relax in a game between the league's top-two teams.

Each time Temple seemed on the brink of building a comfy lead, Xavier inched its way closer toward a comeback. Crawford finally put the Musketeers ahead for the first time since early in the first half on a 3-pointer that made it 48-47.

With Dante Jackson yelling "Movement! Movement" before an inbounds pass, the Muskeeters listened, working the ball around and inside to Love - who was whistled for an offensive foul.

Fernandez came right down and drilled a wide-open 3 from the top of the arc, and Brooks' jumper over the outstretched arms of two defenders the next time down made it 52-48.

Mark Lyons again kept the Owls from stretching the lead to double digits after his 3 made it 58-53. Crawford's 3 kept Xavier at 65-60.

The Musketeers never let Temple pull too far ahead, but they never got rolling on a serious enough run to keep their perfect conference mark.

The Owls were 13 for 19 from the floor in the second half and finished at 59 percent for their highest shooting percentage this season.

The Owls made their first four 3-pointers and shot 53 percent in the first half to lead 39-34 at the break. Love, a Philadelphia native, went 5 for 5 for 11 points in the half to keep the Musketeers within striking distance.