BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- Pepe Sanchez showed why his value to No. 2 seed Temple goes way beyond his point total.
Sanchez handed out a career-high 15 assists without scoring a point as the Owls began their Final Four quest with a 73-47 victory over 15th-seed Lafayette in an East Region first-round game.
Sanchez surpassed his previous high of 14 in the Owls' 98-67 victory over George Washington on March 4 and also grabbed five rebounds with only two turnovers.
"I don't really have a philosophy of not shooting the ball," Sanchez said. "I just take things in the game the way they come. If I have my shots, I will take them. If not, I just try to make my team work well together." Temple coach John Chaney was not surprised Chaney dominated the game without scoring. He has seen it before.
"I first saw Pepe on a five-minute video tape and I never saw him score a basket," Chaney said. "I saw him with the ball like a little rabbit, stealing the ball from bigger, older players in Argentina.
"I also saw him make a lot of passes off the dribble, which is something of a lost art. I saw a lot of good heart, passing skills and ball-handling skills." Not surprisingly, Temple's quest to take its 68-year-old coach Chaney to his first Final Four got off to a good start, but the tournament begins in earnest for the Owls on Sunday, when they face Seton Hall in a second-round contest.
Today was merely a warmup for the Owls (27-5), who have lost in a regional final three times in Chaney's 18 years as coach, including last year to Duke. If the Owls advance through the bracket, they could run into the top-seeded Blue Devils again in the Elite Eight.
Sanchez missed eight games early in the season with an ankle injury and the Owls struggled, going 5-3. Since his return, Temple has lost just twice.
"When I got here at Temple, I was a lot more wild," Sanchez said. "To me, it was the same to shoot the ball. All I wanted to do was do some spectacular thing, whether it was shooting or passing the ball. At Temple, I learned to play the game in an effective way." "Pepe has learned quite a lot and I think he showed a lot of intelligence today," Chaney added. "He keeps the balance on the floor and that is something that people don't realize. It is not easy playing point guard at Temple." The outmanned Leopards (24-7) had no chance against Temple's matchup zone, playing catchup virtually from the opening tip. Temple jumped to an early 9-2 lead in the first four minutes and never trailed.
"Temple was everything we thought they were going to be," Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon said. "Coming into this game, we knew we would have to attack the zone. They did a great job taking us out of our offense. We tried very hard, but they were just too strong and physical for us." Quincy Wadley scored 17 points for the Owls while Mark Karcher added 15, making 5-of-16 3-pointers. Lynn Greer chipped in with 13 off the bench.
Temple shot only 39 percent (27-of-70) but held Lafayette to just 36 percent (18-of-50). It marked the 11th time this season the Owls held an opponent below 50 points for the 11th time, including three in a row.
Tyson Whittfield scored 15 points for Lafayette, which dropped to 0-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
Sanchez was 0-of-3 from the field, but the Owls methodically wore down the Leopards by making 11-of-32 3-pointers and dominating the boards by a 51-33 margin. The only negative for Temple was its 8-of-21 foul shooting.
"I am worried about the guys who were shooting free throws," Chaney said. "I'm most worried about my big guys not being able to make a two-footer. Sometimes, we'll have to put four guards on the floor, if necessary, at the end of games." Lafayette closed within 17-12 on a 3-pointer by Brian Burke with 10:52 left in the first half, but Temple reeled off seven straight points to go up 24-12 on Greer's 3-pointer with 6:33 to play.
The Owls stretched their advantage to 38-20 at the intermission and coasted in the second half. The final score represented the biggest lead for Temple, which had a 22-5 edge in second-chance points.
"I felt it was real tough to get open in the first half, especially when their addrenaline is pumping for them and they're looking to extend the zone," Whittfield said.
Lafayette had trouble getting in the paint, scoring 27 points on 3-pointers (9-of-29) and just 20 inside the arc. Brian Ehlers added 13 points for the Leopards.