ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Temple’s three-year run on the boardwalk is over.
Richmond dethroned the three-time defending Atlantic 10 Conference tournament champions Saturday, getting 22 points from Kevin Anderson in a 58-54 victory in the semifinals at Boardwalk Hall in this casino resort.
The win allowed the third-seeded Spiders (26-7) to avenge a loss to the No. 24-ranked Owls (25-7) in last year’s title game and a 20-point loss earlier this season.
“Getting over the hump and getting Temple is, that’s it,”
Richmond senior center Dan Geriot said. “Everyone knows this boardwalk empire goes through Temple, so to beat them in a game like this, where it was gut-check time over the final 5 minutes with the game in the 50s, and for us to make the plays, just shows we are there.”
While the loss snapped Temple’s 10-game tournament winning streak in this building, it’s hardly the end of the season for the Owls. They are bound to hear their names called during the NCAA selection show Sunday and will be headed to the tournament for a fourth straight year.
“There were a lot of sad faces in the locker room,” said senior Lavoy Allen, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. “I would love to play tomorrow, but unfortunately we are not playing. We just have to put it behind us.”
The victory sent Richmond to the conference final against ninth-seeded Dayton, which defeated 12th-seeded Saint Joseph’s 64-51 in the opening semifinal.
Richmond posted a 70-61 win at Dayton on Jan. 25.
“We were here last year and fell short,” Anderson said. “I really want this. We really want this game. We feel it’s the best way to go out, on top, as champions in this Atlantic 10 Conference.”
Justin Harper added 18 points and nine rebounds for the Spiders, including the go-ahead basket with 3:48 to play when he put in his own rebound for a 55-54 lead.
Harper also was involved in the most controversial play of the game.
With the score still 55-54, Khalif Wyatt of Temple worked the ball at the other end and got Harper off his feet on a jump-shot attempt with about 30 seconds to go. The A10’s sixth man of the year leaned forward as he went up for his shot and Harper came
crashing down on top of him.
Instead of three shots, there was no whistle. Wyatt stared in disbelief at the officials and eventually fouled Anderson, who promptly extended the lead to three points.
“I got him off his feet and thought I did a good job of leaning into him to draw contact, but the ref didn’t see it that way,” Wyatt said
Harper said it wasn’t a foul.
“I feel like the officials aren’t going to make a call like that in such a close game if you are trying to play solid defense,” said Harper, who insisted he jumped straight up and the
contact was caused because Wyatt jumped into him.
Wyatt finished with 15 points, while Ramone Moore added 11 for second-seeded Temple.
Juan Fernandez, the most outstanding player in last year’s tournament, had a miserable day, shooting 3 of 17 from the field and missing a one-and-one chance with 17 seconds to play and the Owls down 57-54.
Temple did not score in the final 5 minutes after taking a 54-53 lead on a layup by Moore.
Trailing 46-43 after Wyatt hit a 3-pointer with 12:25 to play, Richmond scored the next eight points to take a 51-46 lead, with Anderson hitting a 3-pointer and a jumper to cap the spurt.
After Moore made a free throw and Harper hit a layup to push the lead to 53-47, Temple scored the next seven points.
Wyatt converted a three-point play and Moore scored on a pair of fastbreaks, putting the Owls ahead 54-53 with 5:03 to play and bringing the many Philadelphia-area fans in the crowd to their feet.
After a couple of fruitless possessions on both sides, Harperdrove the lane and tipped in his own missed shot to put the Spiders ahead 55-54 with 3:48 to play.
The next 3 minutes were all defense, with neither team scoring another point until Anderson hit both ends of a one-and-one chance with 28.5 seconds to play.
Once Fernandez missed his one-and-one chance, the game was all but over.
Moore had a late 3-point attempt, but all that was left was for Richmond’s players to jump into each other’s arms and celebrate.
“This feels great, to take Temple out of the tournament,” Anderson said. “Our toughness showed.”
Temple led 31-30 despite playing major minutes without Allen, who picked up two fouls in the opening 4:49.
The game was tied at 6 when Allen went to the bench and the Owls remarkably picked things up, hitting four 3-pointers in a 12-3 spurt that Wyatt capped with his second long shot of the run.
Allen’s absence wasn’t all good. Without him in the middle Harper was free to operate in the low post and Anderson had no one to offer resistance when he drove the lane.
The two combined for 23 of the Spiders’ 30 first-half points, with Harper getting 12 and Anderson 11.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)