PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Temple has climbed to the top of the A-10, and put on a show worthy of its standing.
National TV. Nearly 9,500 Temple fans dressed all in white. First place up for grabs.
“Everything about the game was hyped up,” guard Ramone Moore said. “We just wanted to live up to it.”
Moore delivered with five 3-pointers and 30 points, and Micheal Eric had 11 points and 16 rebounds to lead Temple to its eighth straight win, 85-72 over Xavier on Saturday night.
Khalif Wyatt scored 18 points and helped the Owls (19-5, 8-2 Atlantic 10 Conference) build a 21-point lead in the first half and remain in first place in the conference.
The Owls dominated from the start in a matchup between two of the perennial powers in the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers, playing for the fourth time in five games on the road, entered only a half-game behind the Owls in the conference standings. Only some garbage-time buckets made the score respectable.
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson grabbed 10 rebounds as everyone played a role for the Owls in the easy victory.
One of the largest crowds of the season came dressed in “I Believe” shirts for a “White Out” at the Liacouras Center. They saw the Owls emphatically state their case for being the best in the A-10.
“It puts us in a great position,” Moore said. “We’ve just got to maintain with six games left.”
Moore was sensational with a 9-of-16 effort from the floor. He fell only two shy of matching his career high of 32 points set in December against Villanova. He proved his sizzling first half was no fluke. Moore opened the second half with a 3-pointer off a no-look pass, then dunked off a turnover and it was 52-31.
Wyatt scored a bucket but came up hobbling and instantly went to the bench. He returned a short time later and made all three free throws after he was fouled.
Moore did more than shoot 3s. He had a sweet reverse baseline layup in the second half.
It was that kind of game for the Owls.
“I’m not sure we had our way,” with them, coach Fran Dunphy said. “We made some tough shots. We made some timely shots.”
Tu Holloway scored 23 points for Xavier (16-9, 7-4). Mark Lyons added 15 points.
Moore, a 40 percent 3-point shooter, helped the Owls race to a 21-point lead in the first half with a fantastic effort from long range. He made 4 of 5 3s to help Temple punish Xavier from beyond the arc.
“Ramone is terrific in big-game atmospheres,” Dunphy said. “He really gave us that great cushion we had in the first half.”
Wyatt added two 3s in the half. After Aaron Brown nailed a 3 in front of the Xavier bench for a 43-22 lead, Musketeers coach Chris Mack placed his hands on his hips and looked down. It was about over.
Mack said the Musketeers showed “no fight” early.
“Xavier has always been led by its oldest players,” Mack said. “Tonight was an example of our older players not getting the entire team ready to play.”
The Owls pounced and put the game away after a 16-0 run early in the first half. Xavier ended the spurt, but Moore promptly buried a 3 on Temple’s next possession to wipe out any chance of a rally.
Xavier had no more than two or three decent consecutive possessions. Trailing 19-5, the Musketeers already had six turnovers.
Lyons, who averaged 15.9 points, did not start and missed three of four shots in the first half. Holloway missed six of his nine shots and had a 3 blocked by T.J. DiLeo. Frontcourt starters Dezmine Wells and Kenny Frease were both scoreless in the half.
Holloway, Xavier’s star point guard, had two assists and four turnovers.
“We didn’t pass the ball,” Mack said. “One guy just wants to pat it, pat it, pat it and just survey the court like he’s a quarterback.”
The Owls shot 61 percent from the floor (19 of 31) in the half, 64 percent from 3-point range (7 of 11) and led 47-27 at halftime.
The numbers were stunning against a Xavier team that led the A-10 in field-goal percentage defense (39 percent) and was second in 3-point field goal percentage defense (30 percent).
The Owls were on the cusp of entering the Top 25 this week and a win over a solid Xavier team could help push them closer to the poll. The Owls have gone 11-2 since Jan. 1, including a 78-73 win over then-No. 5 Duke.
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