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TEMPLE OF DOOM
West Virginia, which hoped to silence its doubters with a convincing win at Temple, instead gave them more fuel as the Mountaineers lost to the Owls 74-56 to end the nation's longest winning streak at 22. It now appears that coach Gale Catlett's team isn't quite as good as its record indicates. Sound familiar, West Virginia football fans?
The Mountaineers made the mistake of concentrating so hard on stopping guard Mark Macon and center Duane Causwell that they created openings for 6'7" freshman guard Mik Kilgore, who scored 33 points, 14 more than his career high.
On offense Catlett had to be most disappointed with forwards Darryl Prue and Chris Brooks, who together had only nine points, 17 below their combined season average.
Yet take it from Temple coach John Chaney, it would be a mistake to write the Mountaineers off. Chaney called them a "very, very good team," which deserves to be in the Top 20. With their 23-3 record, they are a lock for an NCAA berth.
Chaney's own Owls are in a more tenuous position. Now 16-10, they may have to beat the Mountaineers again in the Atlantic 10 tourney to make the NCAA field. The first two rounds of the conference tournament will be played in Philadelphia's Palestra, but a rematch would be played on the higher seed's home court, in this case West Virginia's.
Louisville, perennially one of the nation's hottest teams as tournament time approaches, finds itself in disarray after one of the most confusing, confounding stretches in Denny Crum's 18 seasons as the Cardinals' head coach.
The trouble actually began when 6'9" senior center Pervis Ellison sprained a ligament in his left knee in a game against Ohio State on Jan. 29. At the time, the Cards were on a tear and probably would have been ranked No. 1 had they not lost to the Buckeyes. But Louisville rolled on, knocking off Virginia Tech at home 108-95 and then Memphis State on the road 101-85.
When Ellison returned against Florida State on Feb. 6, the Cardinals looked invincible. Strangely, however, the team lost four of its next seven. Internal problems came to the surface last week when senior forward Kenny Payne criticized his teammates after a 72-67 home-court loss to Memphis State in which the Cards spotted the visitors an incredible 24-0 lead. "If some guys aren't playing hard," Payne said, " Coach Crum needs to say, 'Take a seat.' "