LONG BEACH, Calif. - Waiting for Dionte Christmas is suddenly routine for Temple.
This time, he did not get there in time, and the Owls fell to a Long Beach State team that had lost four games in a row before last night.
Held scoreless in the first half, Christmas finished with 19 points in Temple's 76-71 loss.
He was spectacular in a frantic but futile rally, scoring 11 points in the final two minutes as Temple cut a 12-point Long Beach lead to three with eight seconds left.
Christmas sank two three-pointers in a row to trim the lead to eight with 1 minute, 30 seconds left.
Then T.J. DiLeo - the son of Tony DiLeo, the 76ers' interim coach - made a three with a minute left and was fouled on the play. But when he missed the free throw, Christmas got the rebound and went to the corner, where he hit a wild, falling-down three-pointer that cut the lead to 71-67 with 56 seconds left.
Long Beach's lead was still only three, 74-71 with eight seconds left after a layup by Christmas.
The Owls sent Long Beach's Donovan Morris to the line with four seconds left, and he sank two free throws for the final margin.
"The last couple of games, we had it right there in our hands but we couldn't put it away," Christmas said. "After the Tennessee win, we thought we were better than we were. We've just got to go back and reevaluate ourselves."
Two days after a sluggish start and a high-scoring second half in a 71-59 loss to defending national champion Kansas at storied Allen Fieldhouse, Christmas was 0 for 4 in the first half against Long Beach State.
By the time he walked off the court at halftime, he looked exasperated as fans in the less-than-full 4,200-seat Walter Pyramid had subjected him to taunts of "Shutout!" and "This is not the East Coast!"
"He has situations like that where he's going to get guarded hard. He just has to find himself some openings when they appear," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "But if he's going to get guarded like that, we need everybody else to step up as well, and we were a little bit short in that regard today."
Center Sergio Olmos, with 13 points, was the only other Owl to score more than 10.
Temple (5-5) trailed at the half, 27-23, and Christmas did not make his first basket until he sank a deep three-pointer with 17 minutes, 58 seconds left in the game.
The first-half blanking was Christmas' third of the season, along with games against Clemson and Penn State.
Despite its losing record, Long Beach State (5-6) has shown some promise in its second season under Dan Monson.