Game Notes: Temple at Xavier
Where the A-10 begins to take shape.
by Eddie Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
Sometimes a New York State of Mind is all you need.
The two reigning champions of the A-10 clashed Saturday afternoon in the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, OH and those in attendance were treated to an offensive showcase. Xavier captain Tu Holloway filled it up by scoring 21 points and Mark “Cheeks” Lyons poured in an additional 19, as the defending regular-season champion Musketeers defeated the defending conference tournament champion Temple Owls 88-77.
Give all the credit in the world to Holloway and Lyons, both point guards by trade, both born and bred New York, and both having to be combo guards at the discretion of Xavier’s head coach Chris Mack. Whoever is the point and who is the offguard is solely based off the ebb and flow of the game, and this cohesion between the two has grown leaps and bounds during the season. When one drives to the bucket, the other rolled to the three-point line, when one pulls up to shoot the other went to crash the boards.
Forty points, 14 rebounds, and 9 assists from the starting backcourt gets it done.
It was probably one of the weirder games that Temple’s played all season. When’s the last time your fourth and fifth leading scorer ends up leading the team in points? When they do, you’re team usually got their butts kicked. Not in this case, as Scootie Randall lit it up with 28 points, and his 17 in the first half single-handedly kept the Owls in the game. With Ramone Scott only getting up two shots in the first half, Juan Fernandez picking his spots to distribute versus shoot, and Lavoy Allen in foul trouble the whole game, Randall and reserve Khalif Wyatt were the only guns firing.
Don’t let the score fool you, as Temple scratched and clawed their way into a 66-all tie with six minutes left to play as Randall and Wyatt bombed away to helped the Owls shoot 11-25 from three during the game. However, timely buckets by Xavier bigs “Uncle Jamel” McLean (16 points) and Kenny Frease (11 points) plus some scrappy rebounding helped get the Muskies over the edge.
Xavier is now 13-5 overall, 5-0 in the A-10, and tied for first with Duquesne. Temple falls to 13-5 overall as well, but 3-2 in the A-10 and coach Fran Dunphy will need to regroup his troops as the conference schedule ramps up and a trip #5 Duke is coming up next month.
* The jersey retirement of Brian Grant was an awesome sight to see. Props to Nima Zarrabi for writing an awesome piece last week discussing Grant’s fight against early onset Parkinson’s disease. As Brian’s #33 jersey was placed into the rafters to never be worn again by a future Xavier player, people were in tears, fans were giving a standing ovation, and goosebumps were being given away for free. Brian Grant is Southwest Ohio, and Southwest Ohio showed him love tonight. The work he’s done on the court will always stay in people’s memory, but the work he continues to do off the court is even more remarkable. A tip of the cap to you Mr. Grant, keep the good fight alive. (Check out Brian Grant’s foundation at shakeittillwemakeit.com.
* Props to Tu Holloway and “Uncle Jamel” McLean for rocking the Jordan’s during throwback night at Xavier. Jamel’s threes were shining real nice, but tip of the hat to Holloway for the ultimate of color coordination by rocking the baby blue two’s to perfection.
* Temple’s going to be really good at the end of the season as they’ve got four guys who can get them 20 points on a given night in Allen, Wyatt, Randall, and leading scorer Ramone Moore. Figuring out who’s going to be a go-to guy and who will lead them in the clutch will be their issue as they move towards March, but if they figure it out…watch out.
Eddie Maisonet is a freelance sports writer, blogger and big time hoops fan from Oklahoma who currently resides in Cincinnati. Keep up with Eddie at SLAMonline as well as his blog Ed The Sports Fan and on Twitter.