Rhode Island Flexing Muscle at A-10
Mar. 06, 1999
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ On the court, Rhode Island unleashed an array of laser-like passes and alley-oop dunks. In the locker room, half the team turned into rap stars.
The Rams were singing something about ``Going to the Dance.'' But there's still work to do. Despite all the fun they had getting to tonight's Atlantic 10 championship game, the Rams almost certainly have to beat Temple to receive an NCAA tournament berth.
If they get there, boy, do they look dangerous.
``Either we win, or we're playing in the NIT,'' said Lamar Odom, who had 17 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds as Rhode Island throttled George Washington 94-78 Friday night to advance to the A-10 conference final.
Temple (21-9), whose tough schedule likely assures coach John Chaney of an NCAA tournament trip regardless of the outcome, advanced to the title game with a 76-64 victory over Xavier.
``I thought we played extremely well as a group,'' said Chaney, seeking his first conference tournament title since the Owls beat Massachusetts in 1990.
The enigmatic Rams (19-12), who look like pros at times, yet lost to Fordham and St. Bonaventure, led by 30 points with four minutes left before the desperate Colonials reeled off 17 straight points. Rams coach Jim Harrick angrily called a timeout, and his team finished the job.
Rhode Island lost two regular-season games to Temple.
``So, we try to get one out of three,'' said Odom, who could be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft after playing only one season for the Rams. ``They're a good team. They've got a great coach, one of the best ever. We're probably going to have to play our best game.''
Before garbage time set in, it was hard to imagine the Rams playing any better.
They held Shawnta Rogers, George Washington's 5-foot-4 point guard, to 1-for-9 shooting before halftime. He didn't score his second basket until hitting a jumper with 11:21 left and had 15 points in the last nine minutes, when the game was all but decided.
Rogers, still battling the flu, ended up with 22 points on 6-for-20 shooting.
``I tried to play other guys, but I thought the officials just stopped officiating,'' said Harrick, who then took a shot at GW coach Tom Penders. ``He didn't put his (reserve) guys in, but I did.''
When Harrick took a deep breath and peered up at the scoreboard at halftime, he managed to keep a straight face when it read 45-24.
With the Rams trailing 9-7 in the opening minutes, Luther Clay had eight points during a layup drill disguised as a 14-0 run. Preston Murphy's 3-pointer capped the run and made it 21-9 with 12:23 left in the half.
Then Ed Brown grabbed a GW miss and passed to Odom, who zipped an alley-oop pass from halfcourt to Tavorris Bell for a thunderous dunk that made it 28-14 with 8:44 left before halftime.
Interrupted by two free throws by Rogers, the Rams reeled off a 9-0 run with five points from Odom and four from Clay. Odom, playing to the horde of NBA scouts sitting courtside, capped the half with a gliding reverse layup that made it 45-24. His 11 assists were a career high.
``That's the best game we played all season,'' Odom said. ``We played it at the perfect time.''
Antonio Reynolds-Dean had 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds for the Rams. Clay had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
``They were like a buzz saw. Everything they threw up went in,'' Penders said. ``I would have loved to see them go up against Duke tonight.''
Yegor Mescheriakov had 21 points for the Colonials, and Mike King had 20.
GW shot 21 percent in the first half (7-for-33), including 1-for-15 on 3-point shots. They ended up 28-for-81 from the field (35 percent), but 5-for-32 on 3-pointers.
Temple 76, Xavier 64
Mark Karcher had 19 points, including 15 during a torrid 21-6 run in the last 10 minutes as Temple advanced to title game for the first time since 1996.
The Owls limited James Posey to 15 points and stunned the Musketeers with eight 3-pointers.
Rasheed Brokenborough had 22 points, including four 3-pointers, and Lamont Barnes had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Temple. Gary Lumpkin led defending tournament champion Xavier (21-10) with 19 points.