PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Juan Fernandez sank seven 3-pointers and scored 23 points, Lavoy Allen had 17 points and 20 rebounds and No. 20 Temple beat La Salle 65-53 on Sunday in a win that cemented the Owls as the best in the city.
The Owls (24-5, 12-2 Atlantic 10) wiped out a one-point halftime deficit with an 18-0 run to open the second half. Fernandez led the way, hitting four 3s during the game-changing run. He returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Feb. 3. He was coming off the bench because of concussion-like symptoms following a blow to the head on Jan. 23.
Temple also won the Big 5 title with its first 4-0 mark since 1987-88. Winning the city series means as much to the competing schools as a conference title. The Owls can win one of those, also. They are in first place in the A-10.
Fernandez scored 20-plus points four times, including a career-high 33 in a win against Villanova, before he was injured against Fordham. The 6-foot-4 guard just wasn't the same as he tried to play with a head injury. He scored in single digits in three straight games before finally sitting one out, then came off the bench the past four games.
When he's making 3s, Temple is tough to beat. He had a quiet first half as the Owls struggled against an undermanned La Salle (11-17, 3-11) team in the first half.
Then Fernandez got hot and a potential upset turned into just another victory. He hit two straight 3s, Allen had a nice spin dunk, then Fernandez hit two more beyond the arc. Allen's next basket capped the run and put Temple ahead 50-33.
Temple could afford to do some scoreboard watching by then. The Owls, Richmond and Xavier all entered in a three-way tie atop the conference standings. Xavier beat No. 23 Richmond 78-76 in two overtimes on Sunday. The Musketeers and Owls are both 12-2, but the Owls own the tiebreaker because of a 77-72 win in their lone matchup on Jan. 20.
For 20 minutes, the Explorers put a scare in their city rival. The Explorers had expectations of a postseason bid entering this season (they haven't played in the postseason since the 1992 NCAA tournament) but were devastated by injuries. La Salle played without three players who combined for 2,839 points.
Jerrell Williams and Rodney Green each scored 12 points in the first half. The Explorers outshot Temple 50 percent to 36 percent in the first half and led 33-32. Green finished with 21 points and Williams had 17.
La Salle might miss the A-10 tournament. The Owls are playing for a No. 3 or 4 seed in the NCAAs.
The Owls have won 26 city series titles, which go to the winner of games among Temple, Villanova, La Salle, Penn and Saint Joseph's. The Owls already returned to the Top 25 for the first time since 2001 and beat a Top-5 team (Villanova) for the first time since 2000 as they continue their rise back to national prominence under coach Fran Dunphy.