After Temple improved to 5-5 this afternoon at the Palestra and Drexel dropped to 5-5, after the Owls stuck their heads in front of the Dragons in the local hoops pecking order, both coaches kept their eyes on the tight quarters around the basket.
Both Temple's Fran Dunphy and Drexel's Bruiser Flint felt today's game was decided in that cramped space.
Dunphy credited the long arms of Owls center Sergio Olmos with altering the game, providing enough defensive presence to lift Temple to a 64-51 victory over Drexel.
"If we were giving out a game ball, we certainly would give it to Serge - he was tremendous," Dunphy said. "He did a great job defensively. He stepped up and made a couple of shots at the offensive end, and he made two big foul shots on a very important part of the game."
Dragons standout Frank Elegar led both teams with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but Flint focused on other numbers on the stat sheet, starting with Elegar's 6 for 17 shooting.
"Frank - he could have had 40 today," Flint said. "He was 2 or 3 feet from the basket. I told him, 'You've got to make layups.' I tell my big guys all the time, 'I can't get you no closer unless the other guy falls down.' . . . [Olmos] did a good job. I know Frank took 17 shots, but I don't think he was aggressive enough. Go at him! All the kid's going to do is foul you. Honestly, I'm not getting on Frank. He's a good player for me. But he's 6 for 17 from 7 feet."
Continuing a pattern that has Drexel on a four-game losing streak, no other Dragon stepped up. Nobody other than Elegar even scored for the Dragons in the final 111/2 minutes. Freshman guard Gerald Colds hit two 3-pointers in the first 51/2 minutes, but Drexel didn't hit another three for the rest of the game.
Flint didn't blame the cold outside shooting. He blamed the lack of shooting, the failure to pull the trigger on decent looks. Flint also cited missed shots from in close from a lot of his players, with too many leading to Temple fast breaks and easy looks.
"It's frustrating today because we didn't have 30 turnovers like we've been having the last three games," Flint said, although he cited what he called "shot turnovers - we took such a horrendous shot, it comes off long, they go the other way."
A 7-foot junior from Valencia, Spain, Olmos doesn't make the game look pretty, but he was part of Drexel's frustration, altering shots from a number of driving Dragons. Olmos had 10 points and eight rebounds, plus two blocks and three steals, in addition to the shots he altered.
If the press conferences had taken place at halftime, Dunphy would have been the frustrated one, after Drexel scored 14 straight points to take a 31-27 lead before Owls guard Chris Clark hit a three in the last minute. In the first half, Temple had zero offensive rebounds, and nobody other than Mark Tyndale or Dionte Christmas scored from the 14:53 mark until Clark's shot with 23 seconds left.
The game remained up for grabs in the last six minutes when Temple showed its best ball movement of the afternoon. Ryan Brooks hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, on feeds from Mark Tyndale and Luis Guzman, to pull the Owls ahead 56-49 with 4:40 left.
Right after that, Olmos altered a driving shot by Colds and then converted a feed from a driving Tyndale. Tyndale followed with a pair of steals, leading to two straight Temple breaks that finished Drexel off.
In the second half, Tyndale filled up the box score, with six points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Important numbers, just not enough for a game ball.