Tiny Temple is able to come up big again

Gutty, 11th-seeded Owls led by Greer in pasting of Penn State, 84-72

South Regional

March 24, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - One of the smallest traveling parties in college basketball is one win away from the sport's biggest event.

Nine players and three coaches strong, Temple continued to make the most of a gutty run through the NCAA tournament, as the Owls got another brilliant game from junior point guard Lynn Greer and posted their third straight front-running romp with an 84-72 victory over Penn State in a South Regional semifinal last night at the Georgia Dome.

Temple is now one win away from becoming the first 11th seed to make the Final Four since Louisiana State in 1986. It lost seven straight early in the season, but it will take a 10-game winning streak up against Michigan State in tomorrow's 2:40 p.m. South final, with the winner moving on to Minneapolis.

The Owls last went to the Final Four in 1958, and they have come agonizingly close to a return trip. It will be the second regional final in three seasons for Temple (24-12), and the fifth in the last 14 under John Chaney. The distinctive coach decided last summer that he didn't need the third assistant allowed by the NCAA, then trimmed his roster of two malcontents because "I don't like bad behavior."

Chaney embraces a match-up zone, the three-pointer and a positive turnover margin, and the first tenet was the important against the seventh-seeded Nittany Lions (21-12). Penn State earned its first Sweet 16 since 1955 with a surprise win over North Carolina, but it became the latest victim of Temple's fast start m.o., which knocked off Texas and Florida in New Orleans last weekend.

"It always feels comfortable going into the half with a lead," said Greer, who played the entire 40 minutes for the 28th time this season. "I attribute that to our defense. We're putting it on teams, and that's what we've been able to do the last three games. That's the best I've seen our defense. We're shutting a lot of teams down. Nobody wants to lose, and I guess that's why everyone is stepping up."

Temple led the sixth-seeded Longhorns by 19 at the half. It was up 20 on the third-seeded Gators at the break. Penn State hung even for eight minutes before Greer fueled the run that turned a tie at 14 into a 31-17 lead. The spread got as large as 23 before the Nittany Lions used some late threes to get within 10, but their highlight came two hours before tip-off, when the Penn State faithful went nuts over the entrance of football coach Joe Paterno.

In this Keystone State match-up, the Nittany Lions became the latest foil to play the Keystone Cops to the Owls' city slickers. Greer, who splits a double team better than any skinny 6-foot-1 kid has a right to, had 13 of his 21 points in the first half. His assist led to an Alex Wesby three that put Temple ahead to stay with 12:07 left in the first half. During the next seven minutes, Greer scored six points while Penn State's production consisted of a free throw.

The Nittany Lions, who beat Temple during its December skid, acted as if they had never encountered the Owls' vaunted zone, as Penn State had just seven field goals in the first half. Five of those came from senior big man Gyasi Cline-Heard, who finished his career with 20 points. Joe Crispin needed 26 points to become the second Nittany Lion to reach 2,000 for his career. He shot 1-for-6 in the first half, and was in tears when he fouled out with 4:33 left.

The Nittany Lions made eight three-pointers in the last eight minutes, and attempted a season high 33 shots behind the arc.

Greer had his customary backing. Greg Jefferson had 15 points - Temple's first points from its bench in the tournament - Wesby had 14, and Quincy Wadley and Kevin Lyde added 13 apiece.

"We were very lucky tonight," said Chaney, who ran his record to 5-0 in regional finals.

TEMPLE-Wesby 5-12 1-2 14, Hawkins 1-3 6-6 8, Lyde 5-11 3-5 13, Greer 5-15 10-10 21, Wadley 3-9 5-6 13, Jefferson 7-9 1-1 15, Rollerson 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Barry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 26-30 84. PENN STATE-Ivory 6-9 4-4 20, Smith 0-1 1-2 1, Cline-Heard 6-11 6-10 18, Joe.Crispin 4-11 0-0 12, Jon.Crispin 2-10 0-0 6, Tate 0-3 0-0 0, Krimmel 0-0 0-0 0, Watkins 4-7 1-2 12, Chambliss 0-0 0-0 0, Vossekuil 0-0 0-0 0, Banta 0-2 1-2 1, Egekeze 1-1 0-1 2, Witkowsky 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 13-21 72.

Half-Temple, 39-21. 3-point goals-Temple 6-19 (Wesby 3-8, Wadley 2-7, Greer 1-4), Penn St. 13-33 (Ivory 4-7, Joe.Crispin 4-10, Watkins 3-4, Jon.Crispin 2-8, Cline-Heard 0-1, Tate 0-3). Fouled out-Joe.Crispin. Rebounds-Temple 44 (Lyde 13), Penn St. 27 (Ivory 7). Assists-Temple 9 (Greer, Lyde 3), Penn St. 15 (Ivory 9). Total fouls-Temple 17, Penn St. 23. A-26,873

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