March 15, 2008
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP)--Dionte Christmas scored 22 points and Temple earned its first NCAA tournament bid since 2001 with a 69-64 victory over archrival Saint Joseph's in the championship of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament on Saturday night.
Ryan Brooks added 15 points and Chris Clark had 10 as new coach Fran Dunphy returned second-seeded Temple (21-12) to national prominence just two seasons after taking over for the John Chaney.
At the final buzzer, Christmas ripped off his shirt and ran off the court as the student section from Temple ran onto to the court, setting off a wild celebration.
Ahmad Nivins had 18 points and Pat Calathes added 14 for fifth-seeded Saint Joseph's (21-12) which will have to sweat out selection Sunday to see if it will be returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.
Temple, which had split a pair of one-point games with the Hawks earlier this season, got back to the big show by overcoming a 1-for-11 start with some deadly outside shooting. The Owls hit nine of 18 from long range and shot 44 percent from the field in beating a tough Saint Joseph's defense which had held top-seeded and No. 10 Xavier to a season-low 53 points in a stunning upset in the semifinals on Friday.
The Owls took control at the start of the second half with a 16-2 spurt that turned a 32-25 halftime deficit into a 41-34 lead.
Christmas, who was five of eight from 3-point range, had a 3-pointer and a layup, while Clark had a 3-pointer and layup after striping the ball from Calathes.
Saint Joseph's never got closer than three points the rest of the way.