The words of his late longtime assistant coach came to him just the night before, and John Chaney passed them on to his Temple Owls right before this game they had to win.

"One of my old brothers, Jimmy Maloney, used to always remind me of how I taught my zone," Chaney said. "That was to be tight. He'd sit there and remind me: 'Just tight. Tight. Stay tight.' "

Impressively following orders to clog the high post and pumping in a series of must-have shots at the Dayton Arena, the Owls resurrected their season at the 11th hour last night. Temple knocked off 10th-ranked Xavier, 63-57, and now is one more upset from a feat that even Owls die-hards must have given up on months ago.

No wonder they were calling it "one for the ages" in the Temple locker room.

After winning just three of its first 14 games, Temple will be playing for an NCAA bid tonight in the Atlantic 10 tournament title game against Dayton.

"If a flea can pull a plow, don't ask no questions," Chaney said. "Hitch up."

Brian Polk, an Owls guard who began the season sidelined by his coach for academic reasons, looked so at ease down the stretch, he could have been on a playground. He torched Xavier for 22 points, 20 in the second half. . . .

D.J. Stelly converted a three-point play with 48 seconds left, and No. 22 Dayton withstood St. Joseph's remarkable second-half comeback to beat the 25th-ranked Hawks, 76-73, and advance to the title game.

Dayton (23-5) will play for the championship on a court that has been very good to the Flyers all season. They've lost only once at UD Arena, where things seem to go their way in the final seconds.

Jameer Nelson scored a career-high 39 points and helped St. Joseph's (23-6) erase a 19-point deficit in the second half. His two free throws tied it at 71 with 1 minute 53 seconds to play.

Stelly's three-point play gave Dayton a 75-71 lead, and Nelson hit two more free throws to get the Hawks within a basket. The Flyers then held on with a bit of good fortune.

* CONFERENCE USA: Freshman Taquan Dean sank a fading three-pointer with 12 seconds left, his only basket of the game, as No. 20 Louisville beat No. 16 Memphis, 78-75, in the tournament semifinals in Louisville, snapping the Tigers' 12-game winning streak.

Dean's shot from the wing over Rodney Carney gave the Cardinals (23-6) a 76-75 lead. Memphis guard Billy Richmond missed a one-handed baseline shot at the other end and Louisville's Luke Whitehead rebounded and was fouled.

Whitehead sank two free throws with 4.3 seconds left. He finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, his third straight double-double.

The Tigers (23-6) called timeout, but Memphis point guard Antonio Burks missed a three-point attempt off the back of the rim as time expired.

* SOUTHLAND: Donald Cole hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds left in overtime to give Sam Houston State a 69-66 win over Stephen F. Austin in the tournament final in Huntsville, Tex. Cole had 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Bearkats (23-6), who were making their first appearance in the conference tournament championship game and advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time.