ATLANTIC CITY - The Temple University men's basketball team watched the top seeds lose Friday afternoon during the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament quarterfinals at Boardwalk Hall.
The Owls heeded the warning of those upsets.
Second-seeded Temple sank 10-of-19 3-point attempts and beat 10th-seeded La Salle 96-76 Friday night. Temple, ranked No. 24 by The Associated Press, meets third-seeded Richmond in the semifinals at approximately 3:30 p.m. today.
Temple (25-6) seeks its fourth straight A-10 championship.
"We're thrilled to have won the game," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "It was a fast-paced game. It was just one of those games where we had to find a way to get more points."
Top-seeded Xavier and fourth-seeded Duquesne both lost Friday afternoon. Ninth-seeded Dayton defeated Xavier 68-67 and 12th-seeded Saint Joseph's beat Duquesne 93-90 in overtime. Temple junior guard Ramone Moore spoke to his teammates about those games before the Owls took the court Friday night.
"I mentioned to the team that the top teams are falling," said Moore, who scored a game-high 23 points. "I told the guys we don't want that to be us. We had come out focused and get a victory. La Salle is a tough team. I don't think they gave up the whole game. It was a tough victory, but I'm glad we got it."
Friday was the third meeting between the Philadelphia rivals. Temple beat La Salle 71-67 on Feb. 2 and 90-82 last Saturday in the regular-season finale.
On Friday, La Salle (15-18) stayed close to Temple early behind the play of 6-foot-10 center Aaric Murray (22 points, 11 rebounds).
Temple took the lead for good when Khalif Wyatt's jumper gave the Owls an 18-17 advantage with 10 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first half.
Temple broke the game open in the second half with accurate perimeter shooting.
Moore sank two 3-pointers and Wyatt (20 points) added one to spark a 15-3 Owls run that turned a four-point lead with 16:49 left in the game into a 61-45 advantage with 13:16 remaining.
Once the Owls built a double-digit lead, they spread the floor, ran the shot clock down and then Moore, Wyatt and Juan Fernandez (19 points) took turns penetrating past La Salle defenders for baskets in the lane.
Temple complemented its shooting with sure-handed ball handling. The Owls committed just six turnovers. Meanwhile, La Salle had 22 miscues - 15 in the first half.
"I didn't think it was possible, but I actually came out of the game even more impressed with Temple than I was before," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "They made great plays and tough shots, and they played good team ball at the end of the shot clock."
Temple also got the ball inside to 6-foot-9 senior forward Lavoy Allen (14 points, 12 rebounds, six assists). He was able to pass the ball back out to open Owls shooters on the perimeter.
"He makes such good decisions," Dunphy said of Allen. "It makes us tough to guard. Plus we made some jumpers that it made it look like we knew what we were doing."
Temple is the unofficial home team of the A-10 tournament. The Owls enjoy the most fan support. They have won 10 straight games at Boardwalk Hall.
Dunphy said Temple's past Atlantic City success hasn't created the expectation among the team that all the Owls have to do to win at Boardwalk Hall is show up.
"We respect the opponent," he said. "We respect every possession. Each possession is critical. We understand anything can happen at any time. The players have worked pretty hard at it, but we have had our level of luck as well and hopefully that luck can continue."
Contact Michael McGarry:
LA SALLE (15-18)otals 31-58 6-11 76TEMPLE (25-6)Totals 35-67 16-18 963-Point Goals-Fouled Out-Rebounds-Assists-Total Fouls-A-