Bad thoughts immediately went through Temple coach John Chaney's head when he saw Pepe Sanchez fall to the floor in pain.
Sanchez's all-around play may have keyed the sixth-ranked Owls' season-opening 60-47 win over Miami of Ohio on Sunday, but Chaney wasn't thinking about the victory.
"The whole season," Chaney said. "He means everything to us."
Sanchez later was on crutches in the locker room. His status for Temple's next game, Friday against Indiana, hasn't been determined.
Sanchez is the team's emotional and on-court leader, and led Temple's stifling matchup zone that was in midseason form with seven steals against Miami.
"I thought it was bad at first, but now I don't think so," Sanchez said.
Sanchez finished with nine points, 10 assists, and seven steals. He helped Temple pull away with an 18-4 run to open the second half after Miami's guard tandem of Anthony Taylor and Rob Mestas gave the Owls fits in the first half with their quickness.
Taylor had 16 points while Mestas added 14 for the RedHawks, playing their first game since star forward Wally Szczerbiak graduated. Szczerbiak, now with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, led Miami last season to the NCAA's Sweet 16.
Ahead 28-26 at halftime, Temple took control in the second half behind the leadership of Sanchez, better shooting and tough defense.
Kevin Lyde riled up the crowd after a dunk off Keaton Sanders' miss to give Temple a 34-28 lead five minutes into the second half.
Lamont Barnes, benched by Chaney for the first seven minute of the second half, helped finish the run with a 16-foot jumper and a layup off Sanchez's feed to give the Owls a 12-point lead.
"What hurt us is we ran out of gas," said Miami coach Charlie Coles. "We ran out of gas and we couldn't get a shot to drop."
Miami shot 25 percent (7-of-28) after halftime, and turned the ball over 14 times in the game.
In the first half, Temple failed to convert on inside baskets and was frustrated by Taylor and Mestas.
An acrobatic layup through the Temple defense by Mestas gave Miami 22-20 lead, before Taylor's 3-pointer gave Miami their biggest lead of the game, 25-20, with 4:15 left before the half.
"We started slow," Chaney said. "It usually takes us until January to look like a good basketball team."
That's when Sanchez and backcourt mate Quincy Wadley turned up the defensive pressure.
With 3:18 left, Sanchez picked off a pass in the backcourt, threw a behind-the-back pass to Wadley, who sent the ball back to Sanchez for a layup.
On the RedHawks' next possession, Sanchez stole the ball from Mestas to start another break before swinging it out to Wadley for a 3-pointer.
Sanchez now has 287 career steals, breaking the school record previously held by Mark Macon, who had 281 from 1987-91.
A regretful Chaney hopes there'll be many more steals to come from his star point guard.
"I wish there was some way I had a crystal ball and I would not have played him as long as I did," Chaney said. "It was very difficult to take him off the floor because of the kind of player that he is."
At halftime, Temple honored former coach Harry Litwack, who died last August at age 91. Litwack coached the Owls to a 373-193 record between 1952-73, and 13 postseason appearances.
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