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Rams Dance To First A-10 Title

Lamar Odom's season started with an amazing game-winning shot. He sent Rhode Island to the NCAA tournament on Saturday night with another one.

Odom hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Rams a 62-59 victory over Temple in the Atlantic 10 championship game. Despite two late-season losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham, the Rams (20-12) are going to the tournament for the second straight year.

Odom, who hit the game-winning basket in his Rhode Island debut against Texas Christian, did it again against Temple.

Coming out of A timeout with 6.1 seconds left and the game tied 59-59, Odom got the ball near halfcourt and drove down the left sideline on Keaton Sanders. He jump-stopped about 22 feet from the basket and released the ball with about a second to spare. The ball swished through as the horn sounded, and Odom circled the court and was tackled by teammates and fans.

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  • Odom, the tournament MVP, had 21 points and 10 rebounds, picking up the slack for injured teammate Luther Clay, who had nine points after a 10-for-11 shooting performance in the semifinal victory over George Washington.

    Lamont Barnes led Temple (21-10) with 19 points, and Mark Karcher had 16 points but was 5-for-18 from the field. Owls point guard Pepe Sanchez, who missed a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left, was 3-for-16 as Temple shot 35 percent.

    The Owls, who beat Rhode Island twice in the regular season, sat dejectedly on the bench for several minutes as the Rams celebrated. Temple hasn't won the A-10 tournament since 1990, but the Owls' strong schedule is expected to earn them a 15th NCAA berth in coach John Chaney's 17 seasons.

    Rhode Island won its first A-10 championship after losing in the final to St. Joseph's in 1997 and Temple in 1988.

    Odom, who could be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft if he leaves Rhode Island, nearly blew thRams' chances after getting the rebound on Sanchez's missed 3-pointer. He got the ball with 11 seconds left and dribbled tentatively up the court as coach Jim Harrick screamed for a timeout. They finally got one, but Odom wasted five seconds.

    With all that talent, it didn't matter.

    Trailing 31-25 at halftime, Rhode Island started making its move about 3½ minutes into the second half. Clay, playing with a strained and heavily bandaged right calf, had a dunk and got fouled after a steal, hitting one free throw to cut Temple's lead to 40-37. It came moments after Antonio Reynolds-Dean got his first point on a free throw with 14:49 left.

    Ron Rollerson scored inside to give the Owls a 45-39 lead with 12:33 left, but Rhode Island reeled off an 11-4 run. Clay scored inside off a wrap-around pass from Preston Murphy to give the Rams a 50-49 lead with 7:57 remaining.

    Odom picked up his third foul with 7:34 left, then hit two free throws before Murphy made a 3-pointer for a 53-51 Rhode Island lead.

    Then Dean blocked a 3-point shot by Karcher, and Sanchez fouled Murphy on a breakaway - with no intentional foul called despite Harrick's hysterical pleading. Murphy missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Karcher hit a 3-pointer to give the Owls a 54-53 lead with 3:48 left.

    Karcher hit another 3 to give the Owls a 59-57 lead with 1:25 to play, and Reynolds-Dean tied it with a putback with 48 seconds left.

    A fan won a 1999 truck when he hit a halfcourt shot during a break in the second half.

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