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Pepe’s Plunge Sends Temple Soaring

November 21, 1998

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Temple coach John Chaney finally got interested sometime between Pepe Sanchez’s three straight foul shots with 56 seconds left and the last two when the clock read 0.5.

Even for Chaney, who sometimes acts as though he has the worst team in basketball history, the seventh-ranked Owls’ amazing comeback for a 60-59 victory over No. 5 Michigan State on Friday night was uncharted territory.

``I just don’t know how they do it,″ Chaney said. ``This has been three games in a row now. ... They just don’t quit. And they’ve shown me that in the last three games.

``That’s about the only redeeming factor about this. They’ve been there before, and they don’t believe that they can lose. I don’t know why. That’s a lot of Tylenol that I’ve got to take.″

After Michigan State (2-1) beat the Owls in nearly every way for 39 minutes, 59 1/2 seconds, Sanchez had two free throws with 0.5 seconds left and the Spartans leading 59-58. With two flicks of the wrist, Sanchez proved that even in the infancy of this season, Temple (4-0) may be touched by something special.

``The only thing that is good for us is that last year we were down by 10 points and we never, ever recovered from that,″ Sanchez said. ``This year we did four times already, three times. So at least we know that we can recover from losing.″

The Owls came back from a 15-point deficit in the first half to beat Wake Forest in the second game of the season. They were down 9-0 on Wednesday night before beating Mississippi by 16.

This comeback had a little bit of everything _ an airball that Lamont Barnes turned into a dunk, Sanchez getting fouled on a 3-pointer and hitting three foul shots with 56 seconds to play and Sanchez losing super-quick Mateen Cleaves and getting fouled to set up the winning free throws.

It ended with a ``Pepe Plunge″ when Sanchez sank the tying and winning shots, then fell backward in ecstasy and exhaustion as hundreds of fans stormed the court as if it were March instead of November.

Sanchez scored nine of his 11 points in the final 2:07, the last two free throws giving Temple its first lead since 2-0.

``We did deserve to win the game for 55 minutes,″ Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. ``We didn’t deserve to win the game for five minutes.″

To his credit, Izzo didn’t complain about a new possession rule that gave the ball to Temple on several tie-ups as bodies flailed on the court.

The new rule awards the ball to the defensive team when it causes a tie-up, instead of alternating possession. Temple benefited several times in the frenzied final minutes, including a critical play when Cleaves was surrounded on an inbounds pass with 22 seconds remaining and the Spartans leading 59-58.

``I hate it because I don’t think anybody should be awarded a game or a fight or anything on a draw,″ Chaney said. ``It leaves too much subjectivity for an official.″

After a timeout, Rasheed Brokenborough dribbled past halfcourt, drove the lane and missed a runner. The ball went out of bounds to Temple with one second left.

Cleaves glanced at inbounds passer Lynn Greer, but that split-second allowed Sanchez to lose him and get fouled as he caught the pass and missed a layup with 0.5 seconds left.

``We were not supposed to win that game. No way,″ Chaney said. ``Especially with me coaching. I’m an old man.″

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