SEATTLE -- Coach John Chaney had trouble describing the helplessness he felt as he watched Temple's 10-point lead with just over two minutes left cut to two in the final seconds last night against Vanderbilt.
"It's very difficult because you see success slipping away from you," Chaney said. "And you see it happen by what we outlined as the key people to stop."
Those key people were Vanderbilt guards Billy McCaffrey and Ronnie McMahan, but even their late contributions weren't enough as the Owls, the No. 7 seed, upset the third-seeded Commodores, 67-59, in a West Regional semifinal at the Kingdome.
Temple rode the second-half heroics of junior swingman Eddie Jones, who scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to help the Owls advance to tomorrow's West Regional final against No. 1 seed Michigan. It will be the third time in six years that Temple has reached a regional final.
"This is an important moment in my life," Chaney said. "The young people don't know how important . . . they are just playing basketball."
It's important for Chaney because he'll be coaching in a regional final with a team that didn't appear to be headed for postseason after starting the season with a 10-10 record.
A team not necessarily known for its shooting this season (the Owls shot 43.5 percent from the field this season), Temple hit 20 of 30 shots in the second half (66.7 percent) to overcome a six-point halftime deficit. The Owls led by as many as 12 in the second half, but escaped with the win only after holding off the Vanderbilt rally.
"We fought back as hard as we could, and we had a chance at the end," said Vanderbilt guard Kevin Anglin. "You have to give them credit -- they made some big free throws."
Only after missing some big free throws that could have spared Temple the suspenseful ending. Leading 59-49 after a layup by Jason Ivey with 2:11 left, McMahan (21 points) made his fifth three-pointer of the second half to pull Vanderbilt to within 59-52.
After Aaron McKie missed the front end of a one-and-one, McCaffrey hit a jumper for the Commodores. Then Temple sophomore guard Rick Brunson missed the front end of a one-and-one, and McCaffrey followed with a three-pointer that had Vanderbilt within 61-59 with 33 seconds left.
But Temple freshman forward Derrick Battie (12 points, 10 rebounds) ended the drought from the foul line, making two with Chaney urging him on with 39.5 seconds left for a 61-57 Temple lead. Vanderbilt again pulled to within two after McCaffrey hit a jumper with 37 seconds left, but the Owls finished the game making six of seven from the line for the win.
"I told [Battie] it was time to grow up," Chaney said he screamed at his freshman at the time of the free throws. "People tend to think you put pressure on a youngster by doing that. But I wasn't putting pressure on him -- he told me what he was made of in hitting those shots in that situation."
And the play of Jones early in the second half spoke volumes of what he's made of. The 6-foot-6 swingman scored 12 points -- from a wide array of angles -- during a 25-7 run at the start of the second half that helped the Owls to a 43- 31 lead.
"I just try to go out and play hard and do everything coach wants me to do," Jones said of his second half shooting. "When it's dropping, it's dropping."
Which it wasn't in the first half for Temple, when it 28.1 percent from the field and scored just 18 points -- a season-low first half. Still, Temple trailed by just 24-18.
"The only thing I wanted to stress [at halftime] was to make surwe stayed with the script," Chaney said. "We tried to concentrate on staying where they live. And that is, they on on the outside with threes and they live on quick hits."
Aside from the lapses late, Temple did just that with its hustling math-up zone defense that had opponents averaging just 59 points in three NCAA tournament games.
"They play good defense; they forced more turnovers  than we usually give up," McCaffrey said.
Vanderbilt coach Eddie Fogler was left impressed with Temple's defense.
"We either got good shots, or we turned it over," Fogler said. "We didn't get to the foul line -- we've got to get to the foul line [one free throw attempt in second half]. We just can't rely on our outside shooting."
The loss was disappointing for a Vanderbilt team that had won the Southeastern Conference title after being picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the six -team SEC East.
"I feel sort of empty right now," said Vanderbilt forward Bruce Elder. Not so for Temple, which last appeared in a regional final in 1991 when the Owls lost to North Carolina, 75-72. Now Temple takes on Michigan, which eliminated the Owls, 73-66, in the first-round of the Southeast Regional last year on the way to its berth in the Final Four.