COLLEGE PARK -- One day before the start of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I basketball tournament, Temple University coach John Chaney had said his defense had carried the team all season.
Last night, the Owls' offense answered the wake-up call, as Temple shot its best percentage from the field of the season in an 80-63 win over Purdue last night in the first round of the East Regional at Cole Field House.
Temple (22-9) is scheduled to meet Richmond, which upset Syracuse last night, tomorrow (12:15 p.m.) at Cole Field House. Purdue finished at 17-13.
The Owls shot 65.2 percent from the field last night, surpassing their regular-season best of 61.9 against Penn State. Forward/guard Mik Kilgore led the way, hitting on eight of 11 field-goal tries, including three of four from three-point range. Kilgore finished with a game-high 25 points.
But it was not strictly Kilgore's show. Owls guard Vic Carstarphen was seven of nine from the field with 18 points, and wing guard Mark Macon, who didn't exactly have the hot hand, had 19 points. Forward Mark Strickland scored 10.
"I've said it all year; teams need balance, and the ones that don't have it should work towards it," Chaney said. "Tonight we played it to the script and got the ball into the hands of the people we were supposed to get it to."
The main person was Kilgore, who at the beginning of the year was more content to watch Macon shoot and then try to get a rebound.
Last night, the 6-foot-8 Kilgore played on the wing. He shot the jumper when Purdue didn't come out. He took the Boilermakers inside when they did.
"You have to give the man credit," said Purdue forward Jimmy Oliver. "He played his butt off. Sometimes we were a little slow on the switch, and when we were, he took advantage of us. All week long, the coach told us he was the best player on the team."
Every time Purdue made a run at Temple, it was Kilgore, or Strickland, or Carstarphen that sparked the Owls.
Despite the balanced offense, though, Temple never built more than a three-point lead in the first eight minutes of the game, leading, 16-13, with 11:36 left in the half on a three-pointer by Kilgore.
Kilgore hit two more three-pointers within the next three minutes to give Temple a 23-16 lead with 7:58 left in the half.
Purdue cut the lead to 23-18 on a three-pointer from forward Ian Stanback, but Macon hit two foul shots and Kilgore connected on a turnaround jumper for a 27-18 Owls lead with 7:09 left.
Temple kept the nine-point lead for the next four minutes until Oliver cut the lead to 33-27 on a three-point field goal with 2:43 remaining.
But Carstarphen hit two field goals in the remaining time for a 37-27 Temple lead at the half.
Kilgore was the hot player in the first half, hitting on six of seven field-goal tries for 16 points. Kilgore was two of three from three-point range. Macon also had seven points for the Owls, who shot 68 percent (15 of 22 from the field) in the first half.
Oliver led Purdue with eight first-half points. The Boilermakers shot 40 percent in the first half and had six turnovers.
Purdue opened the half strongly, pulling within 37-33 with only 1:06 elapsed. But then Carstarphen hit a three-pointer and so did Kilgore, which helped put Temple back on top, 45-35, with 15:55 left in the game. Purude would climb within only six points twice before trailing by 68-63, with 2:11 left in the game.