PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Micheal Eric scored 18 points to help No. 20 Temple beat George Washington 70-57 on Saturday to win a share of the Atlantic 10 title and earn the top need in next week's conference tournament.
The Owls (26-5, 14-2) have won the last two conference tournament titles, but coach Fran Dunphy's team won't have to sweat out winning this year to keep playing in March. They'll be in the NCAA field — and the Owls will be there with their best chance to win a tournament game for the first time since 2001.
No. 25 Xavier could finish with the same A-10 record as Temple with a win later Saturday against St. Bonaventure. But the Owls hold the tiebreaker because of a 77-72 win in their lone matchup on Jan. 20.
The Owls honored former greats at halftime, including Mark Macon and Hall of Fame coach John Chaney. The Owls have had a season reminiscent of Chaney's glory days when they reached the regional final five times from 1988-2001.
Dunphy has performed one of college basketball's top coaching jobs this season, leading a team picked to finish fifth in the A-10 into the national rankings and now a conference title.
Like they have all season, the Owls got a little bit of production from just about every player. Eric scored nine of 11 Temple points early in the second half to open up a 10-point lead. Lavoy Allen, Ramone Moore and Ryan Brooks went inside for buckets three straight times that stretched the lead to 14 and all but wrapped up the conference championship.
Brooks scored 14 points and Allen had 12.
Joseph Katuka scored 13 points for George Washington (16-13, 6-10) and Lasan Kromah had 12.
The Owls got off to a sluggish start and trailed a chunk of the first half until Moore's tip-in at the buzzer gave them a 30-29 lead at the break. Brooks and Eric got going early in the second to help the Owls finish 12-1 at home this season.
What a season already for the Owls.
They cracked the Top 25 for the first time since 2001 and beat a top-5 team in Villanova for the first time since 2000. Temple also won the city series title.
The students unfurled an "A-10 regular season champs" sign as the Owls ran over and took a team photo in front of the banner. They ran around the court high-fiving fans and gathered at halfcourt for a team huddle and a little dancing.
Guard Juan Fernandez dashed into the stands to hug some fans and some Owls jumped on their teammates' backs as they walked down the tunnel to the locker room to celebrate some more.