ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP)—With a number of upsets happening in tournaments around the country, Fran Dunphy was a little concerned about No. 17 Temple heading into the Atlantic 10 Conference quarterfinals.
It didn’t take sophomore guard Juan Fernandez long to put his coach at ease.
Fernandez hit three 3-pointers and handed out three assists in a game-opening 24-8 run that led two-time defending champion Temple to a 69-51 victory over St. Bonaventure on Friday.
The top-seeded Owls (27-5) usually open games by going inside. With St. Bonaventure (15-16) playing zone, Fernandez knew that wasn’t going to work.
“Sometimes the only good shots you get against the zone are the 3-pointers and not inside,” said Fernandez, who finished with 17 points and matched a career high with seven assists. “We took what they gave us and we did a pretty good job of finding the open man. This team this year has many options on offense and we just have to find them.”
Fernandez was the best one on Friday in the game at Boardwalk Hall in this ocean casino resort. He nailed his first three 3-pointers and hit 4 of 5 in the game. He was 6 of 10 overall.
“I just made shots, that happens sometimes,” Fernandez said. “Sometimes, it’s (Ryan) Brooks, sometimes it’s me. But most of the time we start the game going down low. Today it was the 3 that got us going. That allowed us to find the offense real quick.”
Lavoy Allen added 14 points and 15 rebounds, and Michael Eric had 13 points to help Temple win its eighth straight game and 10th in 11.
“The first couple of days of practice this week were not great,” Dunphy said. “I was concerned, but this is an interesting group to be around. They don’t seem to be nervous or too uptight. They have a sense of what they want to get accomplished. That doesn’t mean they will always play well, but they understand the task.”
Andrew Nicholson had 13 points and seven rebounds for the eighth-seeded Bonnies, who beat Duquesne on Tuesday for their first win in the conference tournament since 2002.
Temple, which was picked to finish fifth in the conference’s preseason poll, played well on both ends of the court in reaching the semifinals, where it will play fifth-seeded Rhode Island on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall. The Rams (23-8) beat fourth-seeded Saint Louis 63-47 with their best defensive effort of the season.
The Owls shot 52.6 percent (30 of 57) from the field and held St. Bonaventure to 35.8 percent (19 of 53) in winning their seventh straight conference tournament game over the past three seasons.
The game was actually decided in the opening minutes of each half.
Fernandez had a hand in 16 of the Owls’ 24 points in the opening minutes. The sophomore from Argentina hit three 3-pointers—including one that turned into a rare four-point play—and he set up two layups by Allen and another by Eric with passes inside.
“They have a good inside-out game,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “When he is shooting the ball like today, he’s very hard to guard. Fernandez just hits tough clutch shots and Allen gave us problems offensively and defensively.”
St. Bonaventure, whose only two losses in its final seven games were to Temple, made one run in the first half, scoring seven straight points to cut the deficit to 28-21 on a jumper by Nicholson with 5:03 left in the half.
Allen ignited and capped an 11-6 run with baskets inside to give Temple a 39-27 halftime lead and the Owls put the game away with a 9-2 spurt to start the second half. Fernandez opened the run with a 3-pointer and Brooks capped it with another long jumper.
Demetrius Conger and Ogo Adegboye added 10 points for St. Bonaventure, which was looking to reach the conference semifinals for first time since 2000.
“It was important for us to get off to a good start and keep it close and we didn’t do that,” Schmidt added.
The double-double for Allen was his 13th of the season. The 15 rebounds tied for the 10th highest in an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament game.