Nothing coach John Chaney tried the past five years got Temple past the secound round of the NCAA Tournament. So he's appealing for help.
"I'm hoping we'll turn out to be lightning in a bottle, maybe," he said, then cast his eyes up at the ceiling. "Hear me, Lord?"
Chaney's sixth-seeded Owls made it to the second round with a 61-54 victory Friday over 11th-seeded Kent. Their opponent Sunday is third-seeded Cincinnati, which dominated George Mason 72-48 earlier Friday.
Temple, playing in its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament, was eliminated in the first or second round in its last five tries. The first two losses in that stretch were to Cincinnati.
"It's a ballclub that I really respect," Chaney said. "They play with a great deal of confidence bordering on arrogance."
Kent's confidence didn't suffer as it stayed competitive for the first 24 minutes of its first NCAA Tournament game ever. Then Temple (22-10) took control with am aggressive defense and a 17-2 run that made the score 50-33 with 10:22 remaining.
"They put pressure on us at the right time in their zone and it took us out of the things we wanted to do," Kent coach Gary Waters said.
"We made a lot of changes in our defense," Temple's Rasheed Brokenborough said. "We played at least three or four different defenses in the second half."
Brokenborough and Pepe Sanchez led Temple with 15 points each and Lamont Barnes had 12. Kent was led by John Whorton with 13 and Nate Meers with 10, including three consecutive 3-pointers that cut the lead to 59-54 with 31 seconds left.
But Brokenborough hit two free throws four seconds later for the final points.
Temple got a boost from the return of Quincy Wadley, who missed the past three games and the first half Friday with an injured non-shooting hand. But Temple's best 3-point shooter hit one early in the second half that made the scre 38-31, his only basket in 17 minutes of play.
"Wadley hit a big 3-pointer and that gave Temple an extra spurt," Kent's Ed Norvell said.
Wadley also gave Kent (23-7) an extra outside shooter to worry about. The Golden Flashes also missed their first three shots of the game on layups, and a layup and two free throws at the start of the second half.
"You've got young kids on the sideline watching that and they see your best players missing layups and missing free throws, it brings a little fear factor to them," Waters said.
It was a much more satisfying opener for the Owls than last year when they were seeded seventh in the West but lost to 10th-seeded West Virginia 82-52. In their last five NCAA tournaments, the Owls lost in the first round twice and second round three times.
But Chaney won't use that as a rallying cry.
"Some people can put that kind of pressure on their teams. I don't," he said. "You get that momentum going for you, it'll help, but you have to have a little luck."
Temple led only 31-27 at halftime Friday then pulled away with the kind of defense that limited opponents to 58.1 points per game this season, seventh fewest in the nation.
And the Owls picked up their own offense.
Brokenborough started the 17-2 surge with two free throws and ended it with a basket before Geoffrey Vaughn's dunk for Kent began a 12-4 rally that made the score 54-45 with 3:38 remaining.
Then Barnes hit a field goal, Keaton Sanders followed with a free throw and Kent never came closer than five points after that.
Temple had taken its biggest lead of the first half on Sanchez's third 3-pointer that made it 22-11 with 10:26 left. Then Kent went on a 6-0 run, capped by Andrew Mitchell's 3-pointer.
And the Golden Flashes drew to within four points at halftime on Mitchell's 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining.
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