PHILADELPHIA – GW men’s basketball head coach Tom Penders knows the reason his team lost 72-56 at Temple Saturday.
Poor shooting was the culprit.
“We didn’t hit the shots that we needed to hit to stay with them. I’m firing my offensive coordinator,” Penders said with a small laugh.
He didn’t have much to smile about during the game. It was Temple’s day, specifically Coach John Chaney’s day. The win was Chaney’s 374th with the Owls, a school record. He passed Harry Litwack, who coached Temple from 1952 to 1973. The game was typical Temple basketball, highlighted by scratchy, disruptive defense and deliberate half-court offense.
The Colonials shot 32 percent for the game and didn’t start making shots until the final 10 minutes. By then it was too late.
Temple led the entire first half and was ahead 29-20 at halftime. The Owls delivered the knockout punch in the first five minutes of the second half, rolling off a 14-2 run to take a 21-point lead at 43-22 with 15:30 left. Temple’s lead ballooned to as many as 26 points. The Colonials scurried to get back in the game, trapping on defense and launching a series of three-point shots. But GW never got closer than 12 points the rest of the day.
With Xavier’s double-overtime loss to Massachusetts Saturday, GW (17-7, 11-3 Atlantic 10) fumbled away an opportunity to snatch sole possession of first place in the A-10’s West Division. The Colonials remain tied with the Musketeers, each with an 11-3 conference record. Both play once this week before meeting next Saturday at the Smith Center in the regular season finale. GW hosts Virginia Tech Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Temple improved to 18-8, 12-2 in the A-10 and remains in first place in the A-10 East Division.
The Colonials’ offense, which had been humming along at a league-best 79.5 points-per-game average, stuttered and stalled against Temple’s match-up zone defense.
The 56-point total is GW’s lowest this season. The Colonials’ attack was especially inept in the first half, taken out of its rhythm by Temple’s trademark frenetic defense. GW missed 27 of its 34 first-half shots (20 percent shooting). It was the Colonials’ lowest-scoring half of the year, and Mike King had 10 of GW’s 20 first-half points. Shawnta Rogers and Yegor Mescheriakov had a combined four points at halftime.
“I looked at the stat sheet at halftime and said we should be down 30,” Penders said.
Rogers’s and Mescheriakov’s first visit to the 2-year-old Forum at The Apollo of Temple was not a memorable. Mescheriakov had 10 points and eight rebounds but was neutralized for most of the game. He was unable to get the ball down low and missed his outside jump shots.
The Owls defense jumped all over Rogers, who entered the game as the A-10’s leading scorer at 21.7 ppg. A combination of Temple defenders, primarily point guard Pepe Sanchez, didn’t allow Rogers any room to shoot. The 5-4 guard took only seven shots, missing six. He had as many fouls as points – four of each – and seven assists.
“We practiced against seven guys, we knew Shawnta was going to have a hard time,” Penders said. “His job was going to be more of a distributor today. They extended their zone and kept someone close to him. We needed guys to step up and hit those open shots from the corners and wings that we had in the first half.”
The Owls shot 39 percent in the first half, but came out playing well in the second, finding clean shots in the lane and on the wings. Meanwhile, GW continued to toil on offense.
Temple forward Kevin Lyde started the Owls’ run with a hook shot in the lane 30 seconds into the second half. Lamont Barnes (13 points) followed with a short jumper at 18:30, giving the Owls a 33-20 lead. After a Mescheriakov basket, forward Mark Karcher hit a three-pointer. Senior guard Rasheed Brokenborough then got a steal and an uncontested layup for two of his 11 points to put Temple ahead 38-22. Two minutes later, Quincy Wadley closed the run with a three-pointer, giving the Owls a 43-22 lead.
GW attempted several times to trap Sanchez when he had the ball. The strategy worked in the first half, resulting once in a steal by King and a breakaway layup.
But Sanchez adjusted and anticipated the trap, dribbling away and finding open teammates on the wings. Karcher (game-high 18 points) and Wadley (13 points) were the beneficiaries, each sinking 3-of-6 three pointers. Sanchez outdueled Rogers, finishing with seven points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
GW freshmen Valery Khamenia (career-high nine points), Andry Sola (nine points) and sophomore Roey Eyal came off the bench and hit a bundle of three-pointers in the final 10 minutes, but it wasn’t enough.
After the Colonials left the court, the 9,983 fans gave Chaney a standing ovation. The rusty-voiced coach, who began his career at Temple with a win over GW Nov. 30, 1982, accepted the game ball and congratulations at center court. He then stepped to a microphone to address the crowd. His remarks were typically short and funny.
“I feel bad,” he said, “because this is the worst team I’ve ever coached in my life.”
“He’s the epitome of what a college coach should be,” Penders said. “Don’t take him for granted.”