American University came into last night's game hoping to accomplish three objectives -- defeat Temple, secure a home-court advantage in the first round of the ECC playoffs Monday and give Boo Bowers a game ball for topping the 21-year-old record for most points scored in a season.
Unfortunately, the Eagles came up short all around. Temple jumped on error-prone America nearly, zipping ahead by as many as 18 points in the first half, and never looked back in smacking the Eagles, 95-79, in the ECC regular-season finale for both teams at Fort Myer.
AU, which finished with a 5-6 mark in the conference, will play at Hofstra in a first-round playoff game. Temple, (8-3) in the ECC and 14-11 overall, will host the winner of the LaSalle-Drexel game Wednesday night.
Bowers, after a slow start, warmed up and finished with 28 points, most of them long after the fast-breaking Owls had broken the game open in the first half. AU, trailing 49-35 at intermission, made several runs at Temple in the second half. Aided by four consecutive Temple mistakes, AU pulled within eight points, 60-52, with 11:31 to play.
Bob Harvey, Leon Kearney and Gordon Austin scored six points in a row in the AU spurt. AU, beaten badly on the boards, also got a break when Temple's Neal Robinson fouled out at that point.
Temple never missed its second leading scorer and rebounder. Guard Keith Parham and inside leapers Alton McCullough and Mark Davis seemed to scored when they felt like it, despite any defense the Eagles tried.
Davis, who has a career-high 22 points, dropped in a pair of layups, Parham (22 points) drilled in two 22-foot jump shots and McCullough (22) added a tip-in and a pair of free throws and suddenly Temple was gone again, 73-57, with 7:15 remaining.
"I guess we're still in shock from the St. Joseph's game (AU lost, 62-61, on a last-second shot)," said AU Coach Gary Williams. "Our defense just didn't get up early and we fell behind. We couldn't get back in it after that first half. We weren't into this one mentally."
Temple made sure of that. The Owls shot 58 percent from the floor and outrebounded AU, 40-33. Temple grabbed 19 offensive rebounds to AU's nine, and scored 13 basekts following offensive rebounds.
"We had been struggling but tonight we pushed it up the floor and rebounded well," Temple Coach Don Casey said. "We gave up more points than I'd like, but then again, we scored more than usual."
Each time AU (13-13) even looked as if it wanted to make a game of it, McCullough or Davis would glide in for a dunk or layup or Parham would throw in a jumper. The Eagles managed to get within 10 points with just over a minute to play but the Owls finished off the Eagles at the free-throw line.
AU dug a hole for itself before the game was five minutes old. The Eagles lost the ball four straight times before even attempting a shot and opportunistic Temple jumped to a 6-0 lead.
Whatever defense AU was using, it didn't work. McCullough and Davis did what they wanted inside. The two 6-foot-7 leapers controlled the offensive boards and got several second shots.
Temple didn't need many offensive rebounds because the hot visitors, especially Parham, didn't miss many shots. Parham's outside shooting (seven of eight from the floor) fired Temple to a 28-14 advantage with nine minutes to play before intermission.
AU was doing nothing right. Even Bowers was having his problems. The 6-foot-5 junior, who needed 32 points coming into the game to break Wil Jones' 21-year-old record for most points in a season, had only one basket after 13 1/2 minutes and had committed four turnovers.
Temple, meanwhile, was taking advantage of AU mental mistakes and fast breaking at will. Two breakaways by Parham and a pair of tremendous followup dunks by Davis sent Temple to a commanding 38-24 lead with four minutes to play in the first half.
Bowers finally got over his early jitters and began hitting. He had 16 in the first half but the Owls managed to stay well ahead. A pair of free throws by Jim McLoughlin gave Temple its biggest lead of the half, 47-29, with just over two minutes left.