CHARLESTON, S.C. (Nov. 14, 2008) - Temple's preseason All-American Dionte Christmas scored a game-high 26 points and the defending Atlantic 10 tournament champions held off a late ETSU rally to take a 79-65 win over the Buccaneers Friday afternoon in the first round of the Charleston Classic at the Carolina First Center.
In the season opener for both teams, Temple built a lead of as many as 24 points in the second half and held on as a late ETSU offensive surge cut the lead to nine points with 3:31 left. Now both teams will continue with second round play Saturday, as the Owls will play in the winner's bracket semifinals at 2 p.m. and the Bucs will play in the loser's bracket semis at 11:30 a.m.
"I was really proud of the way our guys battled late," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "This was the first game of our season and we were playing a really good team out of the Atlantic 10. We're not going to panic, but there were obviously things we need to work on."
In the first half, ETSU's offense struggled to find any sort of rhythm and Christmas was everything that was expected, scoring 15 points on four long range bombs and three foul shots. Meanwhile, ETSU stars Courtney Pigram (Memphis) and Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) struggled to get anything going and finished with three and seven points, respectively, before the intermission.
Yet even with those issues, a Pigram 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the first half would have made the lead 10, but it was waved off by the officials for a controversial five-second call. Temple responded in those waning seconds with a three of their own, making the score 44-28 in the second half. The six point swing was a dagger for the Bucs.
In the second half, Temple continued to put the pressure on the Bucs and it wasn't until ETSU began to press the Owls that they got some rhythm offensively. A 16-3 run made it 72-63 with 3:30 left and the Bucs had three shots to score again and cut the lead even more, but those attempts would not fall and Temple held on.
For the game, Temple shot 48 percent from beyond the 3-point line - 67 percent in the first half and just 27 percent in the second. The Owls out-rebounded the Bucs 50-44 and had 20 assists. The Bucs only turned the ball over 14 times, while forcing 18 Temple miscues on nine steals.
ETSU was led by junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.), who posted his first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, Pigram pitched in 18 and freshman Jarvis Jones (Memphis) scored 12.
Temple got a double-double from Christmas and teammate Lavoy Allen. Christmas finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Allen had 14 points and 15 boards. Ryan Brooks scored 15 and Ramone Moore netted 11 for the Owls.
ETSU shot 36 percent from the floor and just 50 percent from the foul line.
For more on the Bucs as they proceed through the tournament, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's basketball link.