PEPE HANDS TEMPLE EASY WIN
By ALLEN WILSON
Leave it to Pepe Sanchez to go scoreless and still dominate a game.
The senior point guard dished out a career-high 15 assists in a near flawless performance to lead second-seeded Temple to an easy 73-47 victory over No. 15 Lafayette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's East subregional at HSBC Arena Friday.
The crowd of 19,357 was the largest ever to see a college basketball game in Buffalo, surpassing the 16,279 who watched Canisius play Duke at Memorial Auditorium on Dec. 7, 1991.
Temple will face Seton Hall in the second game of Sunday's second-round doubleheader.
Sanchez's assist total was just one shy of the regional record for a first or second-round game set by Sam Crawford of New Mexico State in the 1993 East Regional.
It also was the most ever for a game at the four-year-old facility formerly known as Marine Midland Arena.
Sanchez didn't even take a shot until more than 10 minutes had expired in the game. But wing players Mark Karcher (17 points), Quincy Wadley (15) and Lynn Greer (13) took enough for everybody.
What Sanchez does better than most is distribute the basketball. He could have easily had more than 20 assists if the Owls (27-5) converted some their wide-open shots.
"I don't have a philosophy on when I shoot the ball," said Sanchez, who added five rebounds, three steals and only two turnovers in 33 minutes. "I just take the game the way it comes. I have a lot of confidence in my shot, my percentage is pretty good and I have no fear of taking shots. But I'm a point guard. And my role, as I understand it, is make the team get into some rhythm."
Sanchez personifies Temple's style -- nothing flashy, but frighteningly efficient. The Owls had nine assists on their first nine field goals. They had 11 assists on 14 baskets in the first half, including 10 by Sanchez.
"It's just the way I like to see the game played," Owls coach John Chaney said. "He also keeps the balance on the floor, and that's something people don't realize. It's not easy to play as a point guard for Temple, I'll tell you that right now. Anybody see any I can recruit, I'd love to have him because Pepe's leaving."
Lafayette (24-7) tried to make things interesting early, but there was a certain inevitability to the game's outcome. Even Leopards coach Fran O'Hanlon seemed to know that.
"I know that a lot of people weren't picking us, but we came in with a lot of confidence," he said. "We didn't get the best draw. Temple is not a team anybody wants to play."
Temple's biggest concern might have been overconfidence, but there was no hint of that. A three-pointer by Greer capped a 19-5 run that put the Owls in front, 31-14, in the first half. The lead swelled to 23 points in the second half.
"From the beginning when we found out we were playing Lafayette, we didn't want to look past Lafayette," Karcher said.
Temple's preoccupation with the three-point line (11 of 32) lowered their field goal percentage to 38.6. But Temple took 20 more shots than Lafayette because of its dominance on the backboards.
The Owls held a 51-33 rebounding advantage and their whopping 26-8 lead in offensive boards led to a 22-5 margin in second-chance points as center Kevin Lyde (12 points), Ronald Rollerson (10 rebounds) and forward Keaton Sanders (seven rebounds) overpowered the smaller Leopards.
The Leopards made just 18 of 50 shots, including 9-for-29 from three-point range. Tyson Whitfield led the Leopards with 16 points, but made just 5 of 16 shots.
"The key to exploiting a team like Temple is scoring on the offensive end," O'Hanlon said. "Defensively they did a good job, especially early. But a lot of it was attributed to the fact that we really didn't keep the pressure on them offensively."