ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Based on what's happened in this casino resort for the past three years, it's easy to call Temple the bullies of the boardwalk.
Ten Games. Ten wins. Three championships, and now two games away from another crown.Ramone Moore scored 23 points, Khalif Wyatt had 20 and Temple (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) continued to build its boardwalk empire with a 96-76 victory over Philadelphia-rival La Salle in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament on Friday night."What we do, every time, is respect the game, respect the opponent and respect each possession," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I don't think it's anything special about being here in Atlantic City. I love this team, they've showed great resiliency. We're in a good place."It showed in the final statistics. The Owls (25-6) had five players in double figures in posting a season-high point total and beating La Salle (15-18) for the third time this season.In pregame talks, Dunphy didn't spend much time talking about facing La Salle a third time."Many times in this situation, everyone knows each other in the league," he said. "It is like getting blood from a stone."What did catch the Owls' attention were the upsets earlier in the quarterfinals. Ninth-seeded Dayton (21-12) knocked off top-seeded Xavier and No. 12 seed Saint Joseph's (11-21) surprised fourth-seeded Duquesne."We saw the upsets earlier, and we didn't want that to be us," Moore said. "We knew it wouldn't be easy, and it was tough, but we got it."The second-seeded Owls will play No. 3 seed Richmond in the semifinals, a rematch of last year's title game. The Spiders (25-7) beat Rhode Island 55-45. Temple beat Richmond by 20 points on Feb. 17.Dayton and Saint Joseph's will play in the earlier game.Lavoy Allen added 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for Temple, which has won 10 straight games at Boardwalk Hall. Juan Fernandez added 19 points and Aaron Brown had 14.Aaric Murray had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the 10th-seeded Explorers. Ruben Guillandeaux added 17 points and Tyreek Duren had 14."I didn't think this was possible, but I am more impressed with Temple than I've been," La Salle coach John Giannini said.Temple never trailed after using a 14-3 run midway through the first half to turn a 17-16 deficit into a 30-20 lead.Wyatt was the catalyst. The league's sixth man of the year hit a shot in the lane and a layup early in the run, then capped it with a 3-pointer with 6:27 to go in the half.La Salle, which played Temple tough in the two losses earlier in the season, hung around despite falling behind 46-32 early in the second half.A lightning 10-point run that Jerrell Williams capped with a three-point play got La Salle to within 46-42 with 16:49 to go, but then the bullies of the boardwalk took over.Allen dunked on a rebound follow to start a 15-3 run that featured a pair of 3-pointers by Moore and one by Wyatt. Moore also set up Allen for an ally-oop layup and scored on a fastbreak, with the final basket putting Temple ahead 61-45 with 13:18 to go.The lead grew to 20 less than 3 minutes later when Fernandez converted a four-point play and Brown nailed another 3, one of 10 by the Owls.Both teams shot better than 52 percent in the game. The difference was Temple's defense. It forced 22 turnovers, including 15 in the first half."Temple is as good a defensive team as there is," Giannini said. "It's unbelievable. They just do things right. They have good players, but their whole is greater than the sum of their parts."The Owls played without starting forward Scootie Randall, who remains sidelined with an injury to his right foot.La Salle, which was looking for its second semifinals appearance in the conference tournament, got to the second round with a double-overtime victory against St. Bonaventure."Disappointed in the way it ended," Guillandeaux said. "Focus and effort, possession by possession, just wasn't there."