In The Paint

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Now that's how you celebrate the holiday -- start to finish. 

Temple guard Dionte Christmas (fitting, isn't it?) dropped 35 and went 12-22 from the floor to lead the unranked Owls past No. 9 Tennessee 88-72 this afternoon. The career-high scoring performance for the senior came a week after the two-time Atlantic-10 scoring champ was held to just two points in a win over Penn State.

Apparently, he was overdue because, not only did he dominate, but he did so in style. Consistent. Persistent. Clutch. 

Before the start of the game, the Owls raised their A-10 tournament championship banner, as fans donned Santa suits and flashed "Merry Christmas!" signs, all in support of you know who. They seemed to know what was in store, butTennessee, who became just the sixth top-10 ranked team to play at the Liacouras Center in 11 years, had no idea what was to come.

The Vols never took the lead. They never had a chance. Temple opened play with an 8-0 run before Christmas came. The star guard started the second half with a three, then, when Tennessee managed to cut the deficit to four midway through the second period, Christmas rained jumpers: three straight treys to bump the Owls' lead back up to 15.

Tennessee was helpless. The Temple chants reverberated throughout the Liacouras Center, the Owls' lead continued to grow, Christmas kept draining jumpers and the Vols' frustration piled on. Bruce Pearl, whose team's only other loss was against No. 9 Gonzaga in November, failed to contain his emotions and was slapped with a technical. All while Christmas & Co. hardly flinched.

The day started out in celebratory mode, and ended with elation. Fans stormed the floor as Christmas (both meanings apply) brought Fran Dunphy his biggest win in the three seasons.

Tournament-bound Owls? Sure looks that way. Merry Christmas.

 

 

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