Big 5 Bounced from A10 Tourney, Temple Awaits Selection Show

Big 5 Bounced from A10 Tourney, Temple Awaits Selection Show

Both the St. Joseph's University Hawks and the Temple Owls have been eliminated from the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Dayton Flyers and Richmond Spiders will meet at 1p.m. tomorrow to determine a champion.

I think we might as well just address this thing in order. We'll start with the Hawks, move to the Owls and try to fit it at all together

St. Joseph's:

The Hawks got further than anyone could have ever expected. Their 64-61 defeat at the hands of the Dayton Flyers is nothing for the young team to feel shame over.

Having only won nine games all year, their mini-run to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament is a clear sign of growth. Though no one has been officially mentioning coach Phil Martelli's job security, or potential lack thereof, the struggles of his program over the last few years have been hard to overlook. From multiple transfers to losing seasons to difficulties in recruiting, the magic of the Hawks 2004 (debatably) undefeated season seemed a far distant memory. Moreover, Phil's declaration that the run would put St. Joseph's on the national map looked more foolhardy and overblown with each successive setback.

Still, Martelli has assembled a nice young core of talent, all of whom figure to grow together as a unit over the next two to three seasons. If Jones can learn to channel his raw athelticism into consistently repeatable performances, and if Aiken can develop instincts greater than the singular ability to block shots, and if Galloway progresses on the track widelly assumed for his future, then the program could once again become a factor in the league.

Unfortunately for you SJU fans, two of those three hyptoheticals are big IFs. In the meantime, just tell your coach to chill with all that "The Hawk Will Never Die" stuff after putting together an eleven win season. There's a time and place, Phil, a time and a place.

The Temple University Basketball Owls:

As enough of you know, Saturday's 58-54 loss hits pretty close to home for me. But, in the interest of your reading enjoyment -- my number one priority at all times -- I'll do my best to divorce myself from the matter at hand.

Where to begin? Well, I suppose the top is as good as any. The Temple Owls hammered the Richmond Spiders just three weeks ago by a margin of 20. It was Temple's first match up after the loss of starting center Michael Eric to a season-ending knee injury. Beating a team like Richmond in that fashion gave both the team and its fans a huge boost of confidence heading forward. Still, I knew better than to make too much of that one outcome:

The result of this game in no way reflects the talent level of the Richmond Spiders. Kevin Anderson is an elite guard, and the substantially improved play of big men Justin Harper and Dan Geriot makes Richmond a veteran team Temple fans shouldn't be too eager to see again. The Owls are not going to shoot that well every night, and Richmond won't go quietly a second time. Chalk this is up as unexpected rolling and don't take it for granted.

And now, here I sit three weeks later, taking no comfort in the facts I knew to be true. In this case, calling it right still freaking sucks.

As for the game itself, Temple fought admirably, but succumbed to its persistent lack of depth in the face of injury. Again, absolutely nothing has changed since the Owls rolled the Spiders on February 18th:

If at any point Lavoy finds the same kind of foul trouble he did early in the year, then Temple will be forced to play a three (probably, in honest, four) guard line-up with Jefferson as the center. Also checking in at 6'6, Junior Scootie Randall, Temple's best perimeter defender, will fill in on the opposite block at power forward. This also assumes, by the way, that Rhalir is able to stay on the floor and off the PF sheet himself. If not, you're looking at graduate walk-on Dutch Gaitley as the only meaningful height on the roster.

Unfortunately, come tournament time, Temple didn't even have the benefit of Randall, whose been sidelined for the last two weeks with what is reported to be a hairline fracture on the top of his foot.

Though Temple had, thankfully, avoided the kind of foul trouble described above since losing Randall and Eric, they couldn't avoid it against the Spiders Saturday. Both Lavoy Allen and Rahlir Jefferson picked up early fouls that allowed Jason Harper, Dan Geriot and 2010 A10 MVP Kevin Anderson to create substantial match up problems for the short-handed Owls.

Anderson and Harper dominated the game and the box score with 22 and 18 points, respectively. Harper played a crafty mix of post-up and face-up play that allowed Richmond to create a dynamic mix of offense. At the top of the key, Kevin Anderson is just flat out too quick. When you're in foul trouble and he's beating his defender to the basket, back up can be, and was indeed, hard to find in the lane.

Before shifting back to Temple, I do take my hat off to Richmond coach Chris Mooney. When asked to provide an opening statement in his post-game presser, he intentionally cut himself short so as not to take attention away from the performance of his players:

"I couldn't be more -- I don't want to say too much, because growing up I would always make fun of the coaches who cried at the podium. So, I don't want to get too emotional, but I'm extremely proud of my guys."

Mooney was visibly emotional at times when answering questions, and appeared to almost choke up a bit in discussing what Kevin Anderson has meant to both the team and himself as a coach. Chris Mooney is a classy guy who shows tremendous poise both on and off the court; so, it's nice to see the guy's hard work pay off, even if it is at Temple's expense. 

For the Owls, the small squad who lived and died by the three ultimately got burnt from the long range. Though Temple asserted itself in the game early by going 5-8 from behind the arc, the team would finish the game just 7 for 25. Quick and obvious math shows that Temple only converted 2 of its final 17 attempts from three.

The most blatant example of the team's shooting woes came in the form of the streaky Juan Fernandez. The 2010 Tournament MVP struggled to find a similar string of luck in 2011. His line against Richmond Saturday is the following mixed bag of extreme pluses and minuses:

7 pts, (a career high) 10 ast, 7 reb, 3 TO, 3-17 FG, 1-7 3FG, 0-1 FT

Putting all the totals, good and bad, aside, Temple coach Fran Dunphy remained obviously confident in his junior point guard after the game:

"Yeah...I think he tried to force a couple of things. But we're going to trust Juan Fernandez with the ball...He had a couple of tough shots at the basket that I'm sure he would change if he could. But 10 assists is very good and he's a terrific player...I'll trust Juan Fernandez with the ball anytime."

For senior Lavoy Allen, Saturday was the first time in his college career that the Owls would lose a game in Boardwalk Hall. Temple fans, take a long look at your program's all-time leading rebounder when he takes the floor next week; every game from here on out may be your last chance to see him in an Owl uniform.

The NCAA selection show kicks off at 5:30 tomorrow evening on CBS. I'll be back to break down the local match ups and points of interest. Until then, I'm gonna go lick my wounds and try to salvage this hotel room in Atlantic City. Suggested locales for my persual are welcomed.

Related links:

NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination

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NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination

BOX SCORE

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Suddenly, these Golden State Warriors who have been compared all season to the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s are on the brink of elimination.

Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Warriors 118-94 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State, which won a league record 73 games in the regular season, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

The Warriors must win Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland to keep their season alive.

"We all have to bounce back," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "The good news is, we go home. Obviously we play well at home. The idea now is to go home and get one win. Do that, and we put some pressure on them and we'll see what happens."

Klay Thompson led Golden State with 26 points, but two-time league MVP Stephen Curry was limited to 19 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Curry's shooting performance was so uncharacteristic that reporters asked if he was hurt.

"He's not injured," Kerr said. "He's coming back from the knee, but he's not injured. He just had a lousy night. It happens, even to the best players in the world."

The Warriors lost consecutive playoff games by at least 20 points for the first time since Games 2 and 3 of the 1972 Western Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Golden State's Draymond Green, who was fined for kicking Steven Adams in the groin in Game 3, finished with six points, 11 rebounds and six turnovers.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City got a boost from an unlikely source. Andre Roberson, a player the Warriors have ignored at times during the series, scored a career-high 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Kevin Durant added 26 points and 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and seven rebounds.

As for Westbrook, it was his first triple-double of the playoffs after posting 18 in the regular season. It was his fifth career playoff triple-double.

"I play every game like it's my last, regardless of who's in front of me," he said. "That's my job, and my job is to worry about my team, and that's all I do."

The Thunder know they have to close. Nine teams have rallied from 3-1 deficits to win.

"I think we're in a good place, but like I said, this game is over," Westbrook said. "We've got to move on to the next game. Every game is different."

The Thunder led 30-26 at the end of the first quarter, then gained control in the second. In the most unlikely of connections, Adams threw a bullet pass to Roberson near the basket for a dunk that gave the Thunder a 56-43 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half.

Oklahoma City finished with a flurry and led 72-53 at halftime. The Thunder matched the most points they have scored in a first half in franchise playoff history, a mark they set the previous game against the Warriors. It also matched the most points Golden State has allowed in a half this season for the second straight game.

Westbrook had 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds in the first half, and Durant had 18 points and six boards.

Thompson tried to keep the Warriors in it, scoring 19 points in just over seven minutes to start the third quarter. But the Thunder maintained their composure, led 94-82 at the end of the period and remained in control in the fourth.

"This is a tough situation to be in, but the series isn't over," Curry said.

Quotable
Kerr, on the pressure of trying to win a title after setting the regular-season wins record: "We had a tremendous regular season, our guys competed every single night and did something no one has ever done and they're proud of that. But in the playoffs, everybody starts 0-0. So there's no extra pressure, whether you're talking about defending our title or trying to back up the regular season."

Stat lines
According to Thunder Public Relations, the last team to score 72 or more points in the first half of two straight playoff games was the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.

Tip-ins
Warriors: Curry went 1 for 7 in the first quarter, and made just 1 of 4 3-point attempts. ... Thompson committed his third foul with 7:55 left in the second quarter, and C Andrew Bogut committed his third about two minutes later. ... Curry made a 3-pointer for his 48th consecutive playoff game, extending his NBA record. ... The Warriors were 12-0 this season the game after a loss.

Thunder: Westbrook had five points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter. ... Oklahoma City forced 13 turnovers in the first half. ... The Thunder improved to 19-0 this season when Westbrook gets a triple-double. ... The Thunder outrebounded the Warriors 56-40 and outscored them 31-19 from the free throw line.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins fight off Lightning to force Game 7

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NHL Playoffs: Penguins fight off Lightning to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins made good on Evgeni Malkin's pledge to force Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, and Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-3.

Game 7 is Thursday night, with the Penguins hoping to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 and the Lightning looking to advance to the Cup Final for the second straight year.

"I just told them to embrace the moment. It's a great opportunity for us. These are the type of circumstances to where you have an opportunity to write your own story," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.

"They had a certain mindset going into this tonight: `We're going to leave it all out there and do everything we can to bring this back to Pittsburgh,'" Sullivan added. "And, certainly that's what they did."

Malkin was the most demonstrative of the players expressing confidence the Penguins could take the series back to Pittsburgh, saying he believed in himself, his teammates and that they could return home for a seventh game "for sure."

Crosby stepped up with his third game-winning goal of the series. The Penguins captain assisted on Kessel's 5-on-3 power-play goal in the opening period and later skated around Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman into the clear before sending a wrist shot between goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy's legs for a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the second period.

"We know the circumstances. It makes you go out there with a mindset of playing desperate," Crosby said. "I think we had confidence in the whole group. I think everyone played great.

"Everyone contributed in their own way. In a big game like this you, don't do anything special, just do your job. I think that's gotten us this far."

Rookie goaltender Matt Murray returned to the lineup after being replaced as the starter for Game 5 by Marc-Andre Fleury, but his 10th playoff victory did not come without a bit of suspense.

Brian Boyle scored twice in the third period for Tampa Bay, with one of the goals bouncing off Kessel before getting past Murray, who finished with 28 saves. The second score drew the Lightning within one goal with 7:17 remaining.

Instead of flinching, the young goalie who turns 22 on Wednesday retained his composure down the stretch to help the Penguins avoid relinquishing a third-period lead for the second straight game.

"I just think it's part of his DNA. He has a calming influence. He doesn't get rattled if he lets a goal in. He continues to compete," Sullivan said.

"That's usually an attribute that takes years to acquire. And to have it at such a young age is impressive. I think one of his biggest strengths is just his ability to stay in the moment."

Rust's breakaway goal at 17:52 of the third gave Pittsburgh breathing room, and Bonino added an empty-netter to finish it off.

"We had a great chance tonight and just tip-toed around a little bit," Boyle said. "We were tentative and weren't aggressive."

Kessel's goal was his team-leading ninth of the playoffs. Crosby had the primary assist, his first point since delivering game-winners in Games 2 and 3, and Malkin also had an assist to extend his point streak to four games after a slow start in the series.

The Lightning had an apparent goal by Jonathan Drouin waived off a little more than five minutes into the game, when Sullivan successfully challenged that the young Tampa Bay winger was offside on the play before tapping in a rebound off Ondrej Palat's shot that bounced off Murray's pads.

Sullivan announced the decision to go back to Murray following Tuesday's morning skate.

Murray started the first four games of the series. Fleury replaced him during the third period of Game 4, then made his first start in nearly two months in Game 5, which Tampa Bay won 4-3 in overtime.

Before Game 5, Fleury had not started a game since March 31, when he suffered a concussion.

Tampa Bay entered the game determined to not come out flat in Game 6 of the conference final for the second straight year.

The Lightning beat the New York Rangers on the road to go up 3-2 in that series, but were badly outplayed at home the next game and had to return to Madison Square Garden to finish the series.

Now, they'll have to win on the road again to make the third Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.

"I know we can. I've got confidence in this group. We believe we can do that," Tampa Bay's Ryan Callahan said. "We've had success on the road in the playoffs. We've had success in their building already. It's going to be a good one."

Notes
The Penguins were 1 for 3 on the power play and are 4 for 19 in the series. The Lightning were 0 for 1, dropping to 2 for 12. ... Malkin was penalized in the first period for slashing Tampa Bay Bay's Ryan Callahan in what appeared to be retaliation for the Lightning forward whacking him across the wrist with his stick. ... Murray improved to 4-0 following a loss. He's 10-4 overall in the playoffs.

Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

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Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

BOSTON -- David Price scattered five hits over seven innings and Jackie Bradley Jr. had a pair of hits to extend his streak to 28 games as the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 8-3 on Tuesday night.

David Ortiz had a two-run double and a two-run single, and Dustin Pedroia added three hits to help Boston win its third straight game. Price (7-1) allowed three runs, walking one and striking out six to earn his third consecutive win.

Colorado lost for the fifth time in six games.

Jorge De La Rosa (1-4) made his first start after spending almost a month on the disabled list with a left groin strain. He gave up two runs in the first, two more in the second and left with one out in the fourth with two on and one run already in (see full recap).

Polanco, Pirates crush Diamondbacks
PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco hit a three-run homer and drove in a career-best five runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates rolled by the Arizona Diamondbacks 12-1 on Tuesday night.

Polanco's shot to the concourse in right-center field off Shelby Miller (1-6) in the first inning gave Pittsburgh an early boost. Francisco Liriano (4-3) scattered two hits in 5 2/3 innings and added an RBI single as the Pirates improved to 6-2 during a 10-game homestand.

After a short adjustment period, Polanco has thrived batting third in the lineup, hitting .317 (20 of 63) with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 15 games. The Pirates spread their 17 hits among 11 batters.

Miller's recent recovery from a miserable start with the Diamondbacks took a step backward. Less than a year removed from an All-Star appearance with Atlanta, Miller's ERA ballooned to 7.09 after surrendering six runs in five innings (see full recap).

Strasburg strikes out 11 in Nationals' win
WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg remained unbeaten with an 11-strikeout performance, and the Washington Nationals hit three of their season-high five home runs off struggling Matt Harvey in a 7-4 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (8-0) gave up two runs and four hits over 6 2/3 innings in defeating Harvey and the Mets for the second time in six days. Strasburg has five games this season with at least 10 strikeouts and 26 over his seven-year career.

Harvey (3-7) stumbled through a third straight ineffective start, allowing five runs and eight hits over five rocky innings. The right-hander has yielded 16 earned runs and 31 hits over his last three outings.

Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon hit successive solo shots to put Washington ahead in the fourth inning, and Daniel Murphy added a two-run drive off his former teammate in the fifth for a 5-1 lead (see full recap).