LANDOVER -- Temple and Drexel are neighboring Philadelphia colleges that had not faced each other in more than seven years. They traveled more than 100 miles to play last night in the first round of the NCAA tournament's East Regional, where Drexel learned firsthand what it already knew -- that the Owls play some of the meanest defense in the nation.
The fourth-seeded Owls struggled through a sluggish first half, letting an early 12-point cushion evaporate into a four-point halftime lead. In the second half, though, their dogged matchup zone and guard Aaron McKie took control, as the Owls pulled away to a 61-39 victory over 13th-seeded Drexel before 18,667 at USAir Arena.
The Owls (23-7), who will play Indiana in tomorrow's second round, staged another vintage defensive performance. Temple, third in the nation in scoring defense (54.9), held Drexel (25-5) to tTC 28.6 percent shooting, the Dragons' season low. Drexel's 39 points also was its lowest output of the season.
"When we first learned we would play Temple, Coach [Bill Herrion] had us practice against six players on defense. It looked like they had more out there tonight," said guard Brian Holden, Drexel's leading scorer for the season who managed only a season-low five points. "Whenever it appeared we were open, a second later we weren't."
Sophomore center Malik Rose was just as frustrated as Holden. After entering the game averaging 14.3 points and 12.6 rebounds, Rose finished with four points, five rebounds and three turnovers. No Drexel player scored in double figures.
McKie's second-half turnaround was as remarkable as Temple's defensive display. After struggling through a first half in which he missed all four of his shots, McKie outscored Drexel 21-20 after the break to finish with 21 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs.
"I felt I was letting my team down, because I wasn't being productive at the offensive end, which is my job," McKie said. "The coaches got on me about that [at halftime]."
McKie made eight of 11 attempts in the second half, including three of four three-pointers. His first three-pointer gave Temple a 30-22 lead three minutes into the second half. The Owls continued feeding him the ball. McKie kept producing.
"I thought we were going to lose the way we played in the first half," Temple coach John Chaney said. "They [Drexel] were doing an excellent job of switching from man to zone on us, and we came to a complete stall. We were just standing around."