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G Christmas helps Temple claim A-10 tournament crown

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Two years after replacing John Chaney, Fran Dunphy has returned Temple basketball to national prominence.

The Owls earned their first NCAA tournament berth since Chaney led them to the Elite Eight in 2001 by knocking off archrival Saint Joseph's 69-64 behind Dionte Christmas' 22-point performance in the championship of the Atlantic 10 tournament on Saturday night.

"This is one of those teams where there is great chemistry to it, they like one another and it just kind of came together," said Dunphy, who took Penn to nine NCAA tournaments before taking the challenge of resurrecting Temple.

That's putting it mildly.

In the past two years, Dunphy changed the way the Owls played basketball. They went from a halfcourt team on offense to a uptempo style, and they threw away the old matchup zone that Chaney used to baffle opponents and replaced it with a tough man to man.

Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said that Dunphy basically started a new program at Temple using Chaney's players.

"John Chaney's entity at Temple ended and then Fran Dunphy came in and he changed the mind-set," Martelli said. "He changed the mind-set how to play offensive and defensive. It was a new program. John Chaney's program is in the Hall of Fame.

"This is a new program and what Fran Dunphy has done over the two years is extraordinary," Martelli said. "I am not knocking anyone. He got guys who were average and made them believe through hard work that they are pretty good college players."

Ryan Brooks added 15 points and Chris Clark had 10 as Temple (21-12) shot 61 percent from the field in the second half (14-of-23) to win a league-best seventh conference championship.

At the final buzzer, Christmas ripped off his shirt and ran off the court as the student section from Temple ran onto the court, setting off a wild celebration at Boardwalk Hall after the game between the longtime Philadelphia rivals.

"I have been a Temple fan almost all my life," said guard Mark Tyndale, who added eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists. "When I got here I just wanted to get to the tournament and that's what I did my senior year. It's better than not going there at all. It's going to be great to hear our name called on Selection Sunday."

Ahmad Nivins had 18 points and Pat Calathes added 14 for fifth-seeded Saint Joseph's (21-12) which will have to sweat out selection Sunday to see if it will be returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.

Martelli plans to pray that the selection committee makes the right decision.

"Our body of work is on their desk right now," Martelli said. "I pray that it is good enough."

Temple, which had split a pair of one-point games with the Hawks earlier this season, returned to the big show by overcoming a 1-for-11 start with some deadly outside shooting. The Owls hit 9-of-18 from long range and shot 44 percent from the field overall in beating a tough Saint Joseph's defense which had held top-seeded and No. 10 Xavier to a season-low 53 points in a stunning upset in the semifinals on Friday.

The Owls took control at the start of the second half with a 16-2 spurt that turned a 32-25 halftime deficit into a 41-34 lead.

Christmas, who was five of eight from 3-point range, had a 3-pointer and a layup, while Clark had a 3-pointer and layup after striping the ball from Calathes.

Saint Joseph's never got closer than three points the rest of the way, but the Hawks forced Temple to keep making plays to win.

A fastbreak layup by Tasheed Carr pulled Saint Joseph's to 56-53 with 6:12 to play, but Brooks drove by Calathes for a layup to push the lead back to five points.

After Carr hit another layup, Mark Tyndale converted a three-point play and set up Christmas for a layup on the next possession, pushing the Owls lead to 63-55 with 3:21 to go.

Baskets by Rob Ferguson and Calathes gave Saint Joseph's one last chance, getting it to 63-59 with 1:54 to go. However, the Hawks did not score again until the closing seconds in losing the championship game of the conference tournament for the third time in four years.

"We just came out lackadaisical in the second half defensively and it kind of went from there," said Calathes, who shot 2-of-10 from 3-point range and had five of the Hawks' 13 turnovers.