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January 16, 2008

Temple blows by No. 20 Xavier in second half

Box score

PHILADELPHIA Not since John Chaney patrolled the sideline has Temple played so well against a better team.

Dionte Christmas scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half and Mark Tyndale added 22 to lead Temple to a 78-59 victory over No. 20 Xavier on Wednesday night.

The Owls (7-8, 1-1 Atlantic 10) beat a ranked opponent for the first time in two years to earn their biggest win since Fran Dunphy replaced the Hall of Fame coach last season.

"This win means a lot for us going into the next game," Christmas said. "We have a lot of confidence. We know what we're capable of."

This was the type of dominating effort that became typical on North Broad Street when Chaney guided Temple to 17 NCAA tournament appearances, including five NCAA regional finals.

But the program had fallen on hard times in recent years. Dunphy is doing his best to turn things around. This could be the start.

"I think it's just a matter of time before they regain their national prominence," Xavier coach Sean Miller said. "They have a great coach. We respect them a great deal."

Derrick Brown had 14 points for the Musketeers (14-4, 2-1), who had won six in a row by an average margin of 25.3 points since losing to then-No. 12 Tennessee on Dec. 22.

But Temple came ready to play from the start.

Luis Guzman scored all 13 of his points in the first half to tie his career-best. Sparked by Guzman's performance, Temple played one of its best halves using a 12-2 run to take a 27-21 lead.

Xavier answered with six straight points, including a thunderous dunk by Brown off an alley-oop pass from Stanley Burrell. Brown followed with two free throws to tie it, but Temple took a 30-27 halftime lead.

Christmas, Temple's leading scorer with a 20.5 average coming in, had just two field goals in the first half. He found his scoring touch after the break, getting 15 of the team's next 20 points.

Christmas hit two difficult 3-pointers a minute apart to give Temple a 47-43 lead. After a three-point play by Jason Love, Christmas nailed his fourth 3 and the Owls broke it open.

Ryan Brooks and Chris Clark finished off a 10-0 run with consecutive 3-pointers, extending the lead to 60-47 with 9:02 left. Seven-footer Sergio Olmos excited the crowd on the opposite end, blocking shots on consecutive possessions.

Christmas then showed off his inside game, spinning and driving to the basket for a tough layup to make it 65-50.

Xavier made only one shot over a 6-minute span before Drew Lavender scored to end the slump.

"We played as good a game as we can play on both ends of the court," Dunphy said. "We're improving as a team."

Temple's last win over a Top 25 team came against No. 6 George Washington in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament in 2006. A small-but-enthusiastic crowd ran onto the court to celebrate this victory - one of the few times they've had reason to cheer lately.

For more coverage of Temple, visit OwlScoop.com; for more on Xavier, visit MusketeerScoop.com.



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