A dozen years since he left his Ivy tower and moved to Temple the Palestra remains as special as ever to Fran Dunphy. You can put in new lights and a new floor, even throw in an impromptu E-A-G-LE-S chant during a timeout, but the feeling inside what was once considered college basketball’s Mecca is still the same.
“While you can change the lighting, the floor, whatever you want to change it’s always going to be the Palestra,” said Dunphy, after Temple made it 11 in a row over host Penn, 60-51 Saturday, scoring the game’s final 12 points. “It’s a spectacular place; always great here. It’s different for me today than it was 12 years ago. Twelve 12 years ago it was surreal.”
That was when first-year Owls coach Dunphy made a not-so triumphant return in a 76-74 loss to Quakers. He’s 11-0 since, though late in the game—after squandering a 38-26 second half lead to fall behind 51-48 with 4:02 left--it appeared Temple might be doomed.
Instead Shizz Alston’s tied it with a 3-pointer igniting that final 12-0 run, with Josh Brown’s clutch trey with the shot clock making it 63-58 at :46 the dagger to the 12-6 Quakers’ hearts.
Meanwhile at 10-9 it’s been a frustrating season for the Owls who started off by winning the Charleston Classic, but struggled since. “We all thought we’d be better than this,” said Obi Enechionyia, whose 15 points led the way. “After struggling a little bit we just have to get back to how we played in the beginning.
“But we have some games to go and I think we can get back to being the same team we were at the beginning of the season.”
With seven of their last eight games undecided until the final minute, this was typical of how it’s been. Just as typical as Fran Dunphy leaving his old Palestra stomping grounds with a victory.