Santa Claus and The Temple of Doom

Clayton MartinCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2008

The Vols 88-62 loss at Temple was a broadcast of both clichés and surprises.

The commentators at ESPN love their cheesy little cliché one-liners and throughout their broadcasts they continually find variations of the same joke to repeat over and over.

Going into the game I was expecting plenty of Christmas puns compliments of Temple’s outstanding senior guard, Dionte Christmas.

Brad Nessler and Bill Raftery certainly brought their A-game.

Sure enough several minutes before the game even tipped off we got our first of many, “Christmas come early” remarks.

Then the game started and the rest of the broadcast was full of surprises, on the court.

In just their second home game of the season the Owls managed to destroy the Vols who had won eight straight true-road games previously dating back to last season.

Consequently the game was also the Vols only true-road game of December.

After a week of exams and “boot camp like” practices, the Vols looked to continue their efficient play that is evidenced by having outscored opponents by an average margin of 16 points per game against a legit opening schedule. The Vols bench had also outscored the opponents’ in all seven of the first games.

However they ran into a Temple team that despite a 4-3 record to start the season returned four players from last years squad that finished second (only to Xavier) in the A-10.

Last season when these teams squared off in the Vols season opener in Knoxville, they held Dionte Christmas to 12 points. This time Christmas countered with 35.

The Vols were also without junior forward J.P. Prince who was likely to start due to an ankle sprain Friday in practice. It isn’t expected to be too serious, but it will be x-rayed when the Vols get back to Knoxville.

Additionally freshman guard Scotty Hopson was missing from the starting line-up because he missed the team’s pre-game breakfast.

Things just clearly weren’t right for the Vols from the start.

Opening the game Tennessee couldn’t get any shots to fall and because of this they were unable to set up their press and disrupt Temple’s rhythm.

Tyler Smith, who recently recorded the first triple-double in Tennessee basketball history, really struggled early missing his first eight shots. Smith didn’t score until hitting a layup 13 minutes into the game.

The Vols hung around though during the first half until Temple ended the half on a 10-2 run, which contributed to a 34-25 lead at the break.
At the half, only five Volunteers had gotten on the books, two of which were off the bench. In fact, the starting five was only responsible for 13 points in the first half.

The biggest problem was that neither of Tennessee’s big men, Wayne Chism or Brian Williams, scored in the first half. It is also worth noting that point guard Bobby Maze only had three points and one assist in the half as well.

The second half was all Temple, and all Christmas to the commentators delight.

Here’s how Brad Nessler summed it up, “In the second half Christmas has lit it up like a Christmas tree.” Witty Brad, witty.

Bill Raferty wasn’t just going to let Nessler run away with the show, he contributed, “have yourself a merry little Christmas, holy smokes” after Dionte Christmas hit his third three in a row to give him 29 points with nine minutes to go.

Late in the game Temple’s foul troubles started to pick up. However it was clearly the Owl’s day as not one of their three players that picked up four fouls actually fouled out. They played smart and disciplined.

The Vols just couldn’t commit to going down low and really failed to take advantage of Temple’s foul troubles. Instead they chose to continue to launch three point shots despite only hitting six of the 26.

As a result the Vols ultimately lost 88-72. Tyler Smith led the Vols in the losing effort with 17 points, Maze followed with 15, and Chism had 10.

Temple shot 55% from the field in the game. 75% from the line. 40% from three. It was just one of those days for Temple where everything went their way.

Dionte Christmas had 35 points, which is just 2 shy of his career high. In fact, 27 of those were 2nd half points.

Senior center Sergio Olmos also contributed 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks. He had an outstanding game that stretched far beyond his stats.

Ultimately 70 of Temple’s 88 points came from three players: Dionte Christmas (35), Sergio Olmos (19), and Ryan Brooks (16). The later two didn’t even start the game for Temple.

Finally as the broadcast concluded one more brilliant remark was made worth noting, and I’ll close with that

Nessler: “You’ve always been high on Christmas right, (laughs) well not literally.”

Rafferty:“Yea that’s a holy day.”

Nessler: “Yea for some.”

Tennessee certainly wasn’t celebrating Christmas early.