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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. –
Jumping out to a 15-2 lead and never looking back, the #17/17 and top-seeded Temple men's basketball team defeated fifth-seeded Rhode Island (23-9) by a score of 57-44 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals. The Owls (28-5) battled through a roof-leak delay and a second-half comeback attempt by the Rams, and will face #3 seed Richmond in the championship game on Sunday, March 14 at 1:00 p.m. on CBS.
Temple is climbing the all-time record lists as it looks to become only the second team to win three consecutive A-10 titles. The Owls' 28 wins are the third-most all-time in the program's history, and their nine-game win streak is the most since the 2000-01 team recorded 10 straight victories.
Against a team that came into the game averaging 77 points, Temple's defense was solid and the 44 points the Owls allowed the Rams rank as the most they've held an opponent under their average this season.
led Temple with 16 points, while Juan Fernandez
scored 14 and tied his career-high for the second straight game with seven assists.
's game-high 10 rebounds mark the fifth-straight A-10 Tournament game in which he has recorded double figures in rebounds, ranking in a tie for the third-most all-time. He now has 851 rebounds in his Temple career to tie Lamont Barnes (1996-00) for seventh place.
Fernandez opened the game's scoring with a three-pointer less than a minute in, and went on to score a total of nine points in the first six minutes of the contest as Temple jumped out to an 11-2 lead. Adding to his impressive stretch of play, Fernandez recorded an assist on the Owls' only other basket, as well as two steals.
TU shot 71 percent over the opening run, but a leak in the roof of Boardwalk Hall forced a 12-minute delay before play could resume.
Temple scored the first four points after the delay to take a 15-2 lead, but Rhode Island then used a 10-3 run to cut the margin to six.
The Owls recovered with a run of their own, and Brooks' second three-pointer of the game put the lead at 12, 24-12 with 6:50 remaining.
With just under four minutes to go in the half, Rahlir Jefferson made a layup for the second consecutive fast break possession to give the Owls a 30-15 lead.
Brooks hit double-digits on Temple's final possession of the half, finishing with 10 points as the Owls took a 17-point, 34-17 lead into the break.
The Owls kept their momentum going, starting the second half on a 7-1 run to lead by 23, but Rhode Island battled.
Just past the midway point of the half, the Rams cut the margin to 15, 46-31 after a 13-5 run. The Owls hit a cold streak, failing to hit a single field-goal attempt over a 10-minute stretch, and making just 7-of-11 from the free throw line.
Helping Temple stay comfortably in the lead was the fact that over the same stretch, Rhode Island shot less than 25 percent, going 5-of-21 from the field.
With a minute remaining in the contest, Rhode Island's Keith Cothran got the Rams within 11 at 55-44, but Luis Guzman
hit two-for-two at the stripe for the final score.