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Temple MBB, Drexel WBB make upset runs to conference title games

03/16/2024, 9:30pm EDT
By Owen McCue

By CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

Temple junior Hysier Miller laid on the ground, the ball and his team’s season in his grasp as the final seconds wound down Saturday night.

What was going through his head at the time?

“Don’t call a foul,” Miller said in the postgame press conference. “Because sometimes when you dive on the ground and guys’ feet’s down there, so if you roll up on somebody’s ankle they can easily call a foul,” Miller said. “I was just hoping there was no call there.”

Junior guard Hysier Miller and 11th-seed Temple are headed to Sunday's AAC championship game. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)

The refs whistles never blew. The final buzzer did. Miller and the 11th-seed Owls were able to celebrate a 74-73 American Athletic Conference semifinal win over two-seed Florida Atlantic in Fort Worth, Texas. Temple will face fourth-seed UAB in Sunday’s championship game at 3:15 p.m., which is the program's first title game appearance since the league was founded in 2014.

Miller, a Neumann-Goretti product, had 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting for Temple(16-19), which has now won five straight games, including four tournament wins in four days in Texas — quite a feat for a team that finished 5-13 in the AAC that included a stretch of 10 straight losses.

“I’m so proud of this group,” Temple first-year coach Adam Fisher said. “I mean that was awesome. These guys have just stayed together, they believe in each other. Everybody has stepped up.”

Temple trailed 33-25 at halftime but tied the game 46-46 on a three by redshirt-junior forward Steve Settle III with 15:19 to go. Temple took its first lead, 49-48, of the second half on a three by Jordan Riley (16 points) with 13:16 to play. The lead grew as large as eight with under eight minutes left before FAU tied it 64-64 at the three-minute mark. Junior guard Shane Dezonie immediately answered to put Temple back up and it never trailed again.

“Just having good spacing on the court. My teammates allowed me to just get that shot. I came off the ball scree. I think someone in the corner had spaced out, so it just gave me that lane to get a pull-up, and I just knocked it down.”

Temple did have to sweat out the final seconds, however. After Nick Boyd pulled FAU within one with 10 seconds left, Dezonie missed a pair of foul shots to give FAU a chance to win the game. But FAU, a Final Four team a season ago, never got the shot off as Miller swiped the ball from Johnell Davis for his fourth steal of the game.

“I’m trying to find ways to give my team the basketball, trying to find ways to get stops,” Miller said.

Fisher’s team is a win away from an improbable run to the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2019 and first conference tournament title since Temple won the A-10 in 2010.

Already knocking off 14-seed UTSA (64-61), six-seed SMU (75-60), third-seed Charlotte (58-54) and two-seed Florida Atlantic, Temple will now go for its fifth win in five days on Sunday against a UAB squad that beat it 100-72 on March 7.

“It’s March. Whatever it takes you gotta do, and these guys are doing it right now,” Fisher said.


Drexel WBB wins another nail-biter to reach CAA title game

A last-second bucket by Chloe Hodges sent the Drexel women to Sunday’s CAA championship game with a 69-68 win over Towson.

With 4.6 seconds left, graduate guard Brooke Mullin lobbed a pass to Hodges off a well-drawn up sidelines out of bounds play. The Dragons’ senior forward put in a layup with 3.4 ticks left on the clock before Drexel survived a shot by Towson’s Kylie KorenGay-Lucas to advance to Sunday’s CAA title game against top seed Stony Brook at 2 p.m. in Washington D.C.

Drexel's Chloe Hodges hit the game-winner Saturday in a CAA semifinal win over Towson. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)

“It’s something that we rep all week and we know the Drexel system,” Hodges said of the game winning play. “We execute when it matters down the stretch. We win by possessions. We don’t really blow people out, so that’s something that we know going into the game that we’re probably going to execute down the stretch. Everyone on the floor is ready to score, ready to execute, make the extra pass, good play.”

Junior Amaris Baker, a Cardinal O’Hara grad who was an All-American at Harcum College, led Drexel with 23 points in Saturday’s win followed by 15 from Hodges and 11 from graduate forward Hetta Saatman. The victory over sixth-seed Towson was the third nail-biter in three days for the seventh-seed Dragons (17-14).

Drexel, which last won the CAA in 2021, began its tourney run Thursday with a 57-55 win over 10th-seed Delaware, which was led by 19 points from Baker, who hit the go-ahead shot with 18 seconds left. 

Baker had 18 in a 58-56 upset win over second-seed Monmouth on Friday night. Sophomore Grace O’Neill, an Archbishop Carroll product, hit what ended up being the game-winner with 34 seconds remaining. Saturday the Dragons pulled one out at the wire again to pull one game away from an NCAA Tournament berth.

“This time of the year it’s all about possessions and situations and these are things we have prepared to do,” Drexel coach Amy Mallon said. “We talk about, even in that last play, we were working on that this week. The exact time on the clock, Brooke to Chloe and to see them execute that as a coach and really follow through with the plan, I’m just so proud because that’s a hard thing to do in the pressure situation. But that’s what this team is about, the toughness they’ve shown over the last three days.”


St. Joe’s MBB falls to VCU in semifinals

After wins over eighth-seed George Mason on Tuesday and top seed Richmond on Wednesday, the St. Joe’s men had their Atlantic 10 Tournament run end with a 66-60 loss to fifth seed VCU. 

With the top four seeds all eliminated heading into Saturday’s semifinals in Brooklyn, N.Y., the tournament looked like anyone’s to take, but 25 points from VCU’s Max Shulga proved too much for the Hawks.

Junior guard Erik Reynolds scored 18 points for the Hawks (21-12), who came into the tournament as the ninth-seed. St. Joe’s led 25-23 at halftime and pulled back within one, 61-60, on a three by senior Cameron Brown with 1:13 to go, but the Rams’ defense held St. Joe’s scoreless the rest of the way.

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