Slow out of gate, Towson can't quite catch Temple

After 11-day layoff, Tigers trail by 18 early

Temple 75 Towson 70

December 17, 2006|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun reporter

Towson had turned an 18-point deficit into a one-possession game. It was on the cusp of a victory in a barometer game against a program with a rich history, but the Tigers couldn't complete the comeback yesterday and lost to visiting Temple, 75-70.

A win over a national name from the Atlantic 10 would have given Towson (5-4) its best nine-game start since 1989-90, when the Tigers made the first of two straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.

They haven't experienced March Madness since, and third-year coach Pat Kennedy is trying to distance Towson from 10 straight losing seasons.

"We're not there yet," Kennedy said after the Tigers lost for the first time in four games at Towson Center this season. "We're still trying to blend in some new people."

Dennard Abraham, a senior forward from Reisterstown, had 25 points and nine rebounds, but it was not enough for the Tigers.

Temple's Dionte Christmas, a 6-foot-5 sophomore wing, was the best player on the floor, as he scored a career-high 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field and forced Towson senior guard Gary Neal into a 6-for-20 game at the other end.

"All week, Coach [Fran Dunphy] said that you've got to be strong to stop Gary, you've got to get in his face," said Christmas, who scored what proved to be the winning point at the free-throw line with 33.8 seconds remaining. "He works extra hard on offense, but you've got to contest every shot."

Mark Tyndale, Temple's leading scorer last year who was academically ineligible for the first six games, debuted for the Owls (4-3) and scored 14 points. At one point, Dunphy told Tyndale to guard Neal, but Christmas waved him off.

"I was trying to get him [Christmas] off Gary at one point, and he wouldn't have it," said Dunphy, who replaced Hall of Famer John Chaney. "He's got that motor that constantly moves. I'm glad to see he wanted that challenge."

It was Towson's first game in 11 days, and the Tigers looked like they hadn't touched a ball in 11 weeks. Neal was 1-for-8 in the first half, they missed 19 of their first 23 shots and trailed 32-14 after a three-pointer by Tyndale.

Point guard C.C. Williams got Towson running, and Abraham cut Temple's lead to 38-30 on a put-back at the halftime buzzer. Less than a minute into the second half, a three by Neal cut the difference to 38-35, but Christmas quickly got the lead back to double digits and Temple led by 12 heading into the last eight minutes.

The Owls had blown substantial leads against Kent State and Cincinnati, however, and they were shaky again down the stretch, going four minutes without a point.

Draped by three defenders, Neal scored on a circus bank shot from the right side, but Towson was called for several blocking fouls that could have been no-calls and had its own offensive issues.

Neal forced a jumper, Tim Crossin missed an open three-pointer with Towson trailing by four and Williams never got the Tigers into their offense on a vital possession.

"If Tim had hit that three and cut it to one," Kennedy said, "the place would have went nuts."

Towson had zero points in the paint in the first 16 minutes, but Abraham established himself in the second half and even made his first two three-pointers of the season. Abraham had missed two games with a strained quadriceps in his left leg and came in with 40 points on the season, and the Tigers need his production.

It doesn't get any easier for Towson, which plays Georgetown at Verizon Center on Wednesday.

TEMPLE-Dacons 4-6 1-2 10, Olmos 4-6 0-0 8, Salisbery 4-16 6-9 14, Inge 0-1 0-0 0, Christmas 9-14 7-8 29, Clark 0-1 0-0 0, Tyndale 3-5 7-11 14, Kirkendoll 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 24-52 21-30 75. TOWSON-Abraham 10-15 3-4 25, Tubbs 3-5 0-0 7, Pease 0-1 2-2 2, Williams 4-10 3-4 11, Neal 6-20 6-6 20, Crossin 1-5 0-0 3, Coleman 0-4 0-0 0, Breaux 0-1 2-4 2, Spruill 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 16-20 70. Half-Temple 38-30. 3-point goals-Temple 6-23 (Christmas 4-9, Tyndale 1-2, Dacons 1-3, Clark 0-1, Inge 0-1, Kirkendoll 0-3, Salisbery 0-4), Towson 6-26 (Abraham 2-4, Neal 2-10, Tubbs 1-1, Crossin 1-4, Spruill 0-1, Coleman 0-3, Williams 0-3). Fouled out-Dacons, Tubbs. Rebounds-Temple 33 (Salisbery 12), Towson 40 (Abraham, Tubbs 9). Assists-Temple 19 (Christmas 5), Towson 16 (Williams 6). Total fouls-Temple 18, Towson 20. A-2,473. A-2,473.

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