- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Dionte Christmas scored 20 points and defending champion Temple held No. 19 Xavier to season lows in points and field-goal percentage in a 55-53 victory in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament Friday night.

Lavoy Allen added 10 points and 11 rebounds as the fourth-seeded Owls (21-11) moved within game of becoming the first team to win consecutive conference tournament titles since they did it in 2000-01.

Xavier (25-7) will have to settle for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament Sunday.

Temple will play the winner of the Dayton-Duquesne game on Saturday night for an automatic berth to the tournament.

Derrick Brown had 19 points and B.J. Raymond added 18 for the Musketeers, who lost in the semifinals for the third straight year as the top-seeded team.

Trailing 54-51, Raymond missed a tying 3-pointer from the top of the key, and Christmas iced the Owls’ fourth straight win and ninth in 11 games seconds later with a free throw.

In knocking off Xavier and avenging a loss earlier this season, Temple beat the Musketeers at their own game _ defense. The Owls held them to 34.4 percent shooting from the field (20-of-58) and limited them to two field goals in the final 7:23, including a meaningless shot in the lane by Brown at the buzzer.

Neither team led by more than five points in the final 26-plus minutes.

Temple didn’t take the lead for good until Semaj Inge hit the first of two free throws with 4:48 to play to take a 48-47 lead.

Neither team scored again for almost three minutes, and then Christmas took over. He nailed a 3-pointer with 1:50 to go to give Temple a 51-47 lead.

After Raymond hit two free throws with 1:27 to play, Christmas came back and hit another 3-pointer to push the lead to 54-49 with 1:10 to play.

Brown made Xavier’s first field goal in more than six minutes when he scored with 51 seconds to go to cut the margin to 54-51. After a turnover by Christmas, the Musketeers had one more chance but Raymond, who scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, could not find the range.

Temple, which was in its 24th semifinal in 27 years, will be looking for a record eighth Atlantic 10 title Saturday.

Xavier’s previous low points total this season was 58 against Dayton on Feb. 11. Its lowest field-goal percentage was 36 percent in a win over Memphis.

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