Moore, TU Top Tu, Xavier

The Temple men's basketball team still has a way to go to declare itself the class of the Atlantic 10 Conference this season, but Saturday's decisive 85-72 win over five-time defending regular-season champion Xavier went a long way towards staking its claim.The Owls used an early 16-0 run to take a 21-5 lead and the game was never in doubt again as they won their eighth straight.

The Temple men's basketball team still has a way to go to declare itself the class of the Atlantic 10 Conference this season, but Saturday's decisive 85-72 win over five-time defending regular-season champion Xavier went a long way towards staking its claim.

The Owls used an early 16-0 run to take a 21-5 lead and the game was never in doubt again as they won their eighth straight. Temple is 19-5 overall and kept its hold on first place in the conference at 8-2, while Xavier fell to 16-9, 7-4.

"It was exciting, everything about the game was hyped up and I just wanted to live up to it," said Temple senior Ramone Moore. "It puts us in a great position. We just have to maintain it. We knew they could tie us for first, and we just wanted to play our best basketball. I think we did that tonight."

Moore certainly played his best, scoring 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-8 from three, and 7-for-9 from the line while also contributing a block and two steals. Defending A-10 player of the Year Tu Holloway scored a quiet 23 for the Musketeers.

"If (Moore's) not the best (player in the A-10), he's in the top two or three," admitted Xavier coach Chris Mack. "He's hard to defend. He can rise up right in front of his defender, he has great touch, gets to the free throw line, knows how to play. He's a big-time matchup problem. He has good size for a guard, and we're small and he takes advantage of that."

Certainly, Moore has put himself in this season's Player of the Year discussion as he came into the game with a conference-leading 18.3 points per game.

"Ramone is terrific in big-game atmospheres and he took it upon himself to make some big shots and give us that big cushion," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "(Player of the Year) will be for somebody else to decide. What's important is he's playing basketball at Temple and having a terrific season."

The Owls left the court to a standing ovation after Micheal Eric's layup gave them a 20-point lead, 47-27, heading into the locker room for halftime. It was a big game for Eric, who finished with 11 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in 28 minutes and dominated his matchup with Musketeer center Kenny Frease (two points, one rebound).

Eric accumulated his fourth double-double of the season and first since a patella injury cost him eight weeks of the season. The Owls have won all seven games since his return.

"I feel great, I'm getting better as the weeks go by and I'm just happy to be able to play basketball again," said Eric.

Early Xavier turnovers led to fast-break opportunities on the other end, and the Owls' Khalif Wyatt (18 points) scored five points in the 16-0 run. The Musketeers turned it over six times without an assist in the first eight minutes and didn't post an assist on a basket until over 12 minutes had lapsed in the game, causing Mack to lament his team's failure to move the basketball.

"It was just us playing as well as we could, two years ago was similar when we played pretty well on those guys and got out to a nice lead," said Moore. "We just have to give credit to ourselves on the defensive end."

Almost everything went the Owls' way in the first 20 minutes. A horrendous behind-the-back pass from Juan Fernandez caromed off the leg of a Xavier player, right to Wyatt, who drained a three.

Temple shot an unconscious 61.3 percent from the field before intermission – 19-of-31 from the field, including 7-of-11 on threes. The Musketeers' best defensive strategy might have been just fouling the Owls, who were just 2-for-6 from the line in the first half.

With Eric grabbing 16 rebounds and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson notching 10, the Owls out-rebounded the Musketeers, 43-29, for the game and pulled down 18 offensive boards.

"I thought a lot of those rebounds were on the floor, instead of up in the air, which was disappointing," said Mack. "That's usually an indication of who's ready to play and who's the hungrier team."

The Owls cooled off considerably in the second half, shooting just 31 percent, but they had built a big enough advantage that the Musketeers never made it close.

"We made some tough shots, some really timely shots (in the first half)," said Dunphy. "I thought we could get some decent looks, and we knocked them out.

"Our guys were ready to play is what it came down to. I thought our defense and the way we played in the first half was about as well as we could play."

Xavier coach Chris Mack:

Ramone Moore/Micheal Eric:

Fran Dunphy:

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