Even as I write this, I want to re-watch the game again and figure out exactly how Duke lost. Temple is still missing two injured starters; importantly in this match-up, the Owls played without Michael Eric, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound senior. That hole at center resulted in 50 points in the paint for Buffalo two games ago and a tight game at Delaware last Friday. After watching the last two games, I was just hoping the Owls could keep this game close in front of a national television audience and 20,000 fans at the Wells Fargo Center against the third-ranked Blue Devils.
Before the game, Temple coach Fran Dunphy took the team for a ride down the Broad Street Line, a straight path from campus to the arena. (Next time he wants to have a SEPTA-themed team building exercise, Dunphy should let the team go from Media, Pa., [my hometown] to the Philadelphia Zoo one afternoon: if you time it just right you can use the regional rail, el/subway, bus and trolley. What a treat.) The glorious experience of mass transit must have heightened their senses, because from the start the Owls were hustling all over the court for steals and contesting shots. Juan Fernandez only made one basket, but he spent the night running through moving screens and staying in front of the ball to slow down Duke's perimeter players. Twice he also passed the ball out of a double team behind his back about a quarter of the length of the court to feed someone in the paint. It just took me a few minutes to phrase that sentence because it was such an astounding move. (I still don't think I got it right; just watch the highlights and you'll see what I mean).
Of course, anytime a team plays Duke, the fans know that there will be at least a few, ahem, "choice" calls (or no-calls) by the officials. Though from section 209 (not 209A, and don't EVER confuse section 209 with 209A at the Wells Fargo Center or the ushers will rip out your heart like it's the Temple of Doom) it looked like the zebras missed some Blue Devil walks, push-offs, and charges, in reality both teams received fair treatment at either end of the floor. Though the score was tight throughout the contest (this was definitely an extra deodorant game), the referees stayed in control without commandeering the action.
Freshmen Anthony Lee again filled in nicely for the injured Eric, attempting to keep the Plumlee brothers at bay (though they would combine to score 33 points). Lee held the line in the paint waiting for help, kept plays alive on the offensive boards, and scored in double digits for the second game in a row. When Eric finally gets back (hopefully in the next week), Lee's experience will strengthen the bench.
Despite playing small (well, smaller for Temple) at times, both teams took away a lot of perimeter opportunities. The Owls responded by otherwise shooting well from the field and pushing the ball in transition. At one point, the game's leading scorer Khalif Wyatt just dropped an uncontested Lazy Lay-Up into the basket after a steal. (Personally, I think the Lazy Lay-Up should replace the Eff-You Dunk as the finishing move of choice; it's much smoother in terms of denouement, and you reduce the risk of looking like a moron if the ball rockets off the rim).
Reflecting on the game now, those well-timed points in transition serve as guideposts for how Duke lost, or really, how Temple won. After the first eight minutes, my dad just wanted to see Temple win the next four minutes, then another four, and then another four until time ran out. And just as in the victory over Villanova earlier this season (I am legally obligated to bring up that game), Temple gave him what he wanted. As the clock neared each TV timeout, one of the Owls would deposit a steal in the cylinder or hit a jumper at the key to maintain the lead.
With the final four minutes left and the Owls still on top, students started to position themselves for the seemingly obligatory "storming of the court" by filling up aisles and climbing over seats to get closer to the action. After missing several late free throws, Temple couldn't really pull away and I was convinced the basketball gods would punish us all for the premature expectation of victory. As the old guy behind me put it, "This is Philadelphia! Even with less than a minute left and up by six, we're still here [bleeping] our pants." Luckily, the basketball gods (and the officials) did not intervene, and Temple pulled off a sweet upset. However, Event Security did intervene in an attempt to stem the tide of Cherry and White from flooding the court. At least one member of the security detail went into Beast Mode, mowing down every student in his path. If you can spot the guy in replays, he's got a mustache like one of the Chicago police detectives in The Fugitive and the intensity of a Spartan warrior. No one, but no one, was sneaking by him to celebrate, though his comrades on the flanks weren't quite as successful.
Of course, the Owls don't have much time to bask in this win. After the game, one of the players said that he didn't even think Dunphy congratulated them on the victory, telling the team to get ready for practice tomorrow and Dayton on Saturday. I wish I could be more specific with that quote, but I was half-listening on the AM while navigating my father out of the parking lot. What a charlie foxtrot. That was the only time in my life I wished we had been able to just leave the car on a random side street in North Philadelphia or take the subway. Any collective happiness we shared as a city inside that arena was lost in the ether as we fought like English school boys in Lord of the Flies to get home.
As with any Red Line Upset, it was a great win and one I'll cherish for the rest of my life, but it's not enough to hang a season on. Time for conference play.
at TEMPLE 78, DUKE 73 01/04/2012
DUKE 12-2 (0-0) -- A. Rivers 3-11 3-5 11; M. Plumlee 7-13 2-2 16; S. Curry 2-5 2-3 7; T. Thornton 2-5 0-0 5; M. Plumlee 8-11 1-2 17; R. Kelly 1-2 3-4 5; A. Dawkins 0-3 0-0 0; Q. Cook 2-6 0-0 5; M. Gbinije 2-2 0-0 5; J. Hairston 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-59 11-16 73. TEMPLE 10-3 (0-0) -- R. Hollis-Jefferson 7-10 3-3 17; J. Fernandez 1-4 2-2 4; R. Moore 4-8 0-1 9; A. Lee 6-11 1-2 13; K. Wyatt 8-12 3-6 22; A. Brown 4-9 2-4 11; T. DiLeo 1-1 0-0 2; W. Cummings 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-55 11-18 78.
Three-point goals: DUKE 6-14 (S. Curry 1-3; A. Dawkins 0-2; T. Thornton 1-1; A. Rivers 2-3; Q. Cook 1-4; M. Gbinije 1-1), TU 5-10 (R. Moore 1-2; J. Fernandez 0-1; K. Wyatt 3-5; A. Brown 1-2); Rebounds: DUKE 29 (M. Plumlee 13), TU 30 (A. Lee 7); Assists: DUKE 13 (M. Plumlee 4), TU 18 (J. Fernandez 6); Total Fouls -- DUKE 18, TU 18; Fouled Out: DUKE-None; TU-None.