Temple's defense stifles Richmond, 77-64 Macon's 20 lift Owls into region semifinals

March 17, 1991|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- When a minor earthquake hit outside Richmond early Friday morning, some kidded that it was result of the celebration that followed the Spiders' seismic upset of second-seeded Syracuse at Cole Field House in the opening of the National Collegiate Athletic Association East Regional.

The aftershock, or maybe just the shock, came yesterday.

After getting open shots all night against the Orangemen, Richmond ran into Temple's suffocating matchup zone and its rather large front line. And when forward Kenny Wood's left eye inadvertently ran into Mark Macon's right hand, it was all but over for the Cinderella Spiders.

The result was a 77-64 second-round victory for the Owls and a return to the tournament's Sweet 16 for the first time in three years. Temple (23-9) will play Oklahoma State on Friday in East Rutherford, N.J. The Cowboys beat North Carolina State, 73-64, in the second game yesterday.

"Any time a team takes away your shots, it makes it much harder," said Richmond coach Dick Tarrant. "We tried to go inside, but their defense was very stifling. The more we hit our threes, they adjusted and they almost played a man-to-man. It's an excellent defense."

Leading by nine points midway through the first half, but by only 32-31 at halftime, Temple went ahead by as much as 48-37 within the first four minutes of the second half. But the Spiders, led by Chris Fleming's three-point shooting, climbed back into the game.

On four straight three-pointers by Fleming during a 20-11 run, Richmond (22-9) closed to within 59-57. But after hitting a big three-point shot with time dwindling on the 45-second clock, Macon accidentally hit Wood going for a rebound, lacerating his eyelid. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior went to the bench with 6:16 to play and never returned.

"Whether we would have won with Kenny is a moot point," said Tarrant, whose No. 15-seeded Spiders were the first to beat a No. 2 seed since the tournament was expanded six years ago. "As I said on Friday, they are a very difficult team to catch when they have any kind of substantial lead."

Though the Spiders closed to within 66-62 with a little more than two minutes left, the Owls left no room for doubt by making 11 of their last 13 free throws. Richmond, which didn't have a basket from its two centers, scored only once inside after Wood departed, a meaningless layup by Fleming in the final seconds.

"I guess we gave it the old college try," said senior forward Terry Connolly of Frederick, who like many of his teammates was overmatched inside. "They had so much firepower on the perimeter and then they go 7 feet, 6-10 inside. We just did the best we could. You're not going to stop them, at least not us."

Macon, who made enough big plays to overlook some erratic shooting (seven of 18) finished with 20 points, and forward Mik Kilgore had 18 points and seven rebounds. But the performance of Temple's two interior players, center Donald Hodge and forward Mark Strickland, sparked the defense.

"Today I got off to a good start," said Hodge, a junior from Washington who finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and altered several more Richmond shots. "They were looking to me earlier and that opened up things outside."

It wasn't only the way Temple played defense, but the way the Owls adjusted that made things difficult for Richmond. When Fleming got on a roll -- he had seven three-pointers, two short of an East Regional record -- Macon extended the zone out to stop him.

"I just said to the guys, You're going to have to come to work early and stay late," said Chaney. "You can't take any coffee breaks. You have to stay until someone tells you the work is over."

The work might not be over for the Owls, but neither is the fun. Going back to Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., for the round of 16 will be much different for Temple than it was in 1988, when the Owls were ranked No. 1 in the country.

That team, which relied mostly on its starters and a wunderkind freshman named Macon, lost to Duke in the regional final. This time, Temple is a little deeper and a little bigger and relies on a senior leader named Macon. And, as always, on its defense.

"We're a much better ballclub than we were then, but so is everyone else," Chaney said yesterday. "Whether this team is good enough, I don't know. We don't have to play Duke, Vegas or Arkansas."

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