Well, it’s been about twelve hours since Temple lost to South Florida, 58-44, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s still a little hard to process, and I still can’t look at my bracket to place those big, red Xs over the “Temple”s I’d written into the Elite Eight. It’s been a great season, but ending on a sour note like that was rough, and a loss is not what I thought I’d be writing about this afternoon.
We gathered in the Great Court of Mitten Hall before 9pm, and even with all the free food, pom-poms, and spirit, the sea of cherry and white was still focused on the basketball. We watched as Lehigh upset Duke and then sat nervously until 10:15 when the Owls tipped off in Nashville.
The game was one of the more difficult ones to watch. The Owls failed to capitalize on USF’s shaky first half, and though we were up at halftime, we couldn’t find any kind of rhythm. The crowd gathered in Mitten was willing them on, cheering with the 200 students who made the trip, spirit fingers during free throws, and the whole nine yards. But slowly, we watched as the Owls got in a deeper and deeper hole and made turnovers when they needed baskets. When Juan Fernandez scores 1pt, Mone Moore scores 5, and no one else steps up, we’re in trouble. Everyone has a bad stretch, but ours came at the wrong point in the season. When the final buzzer sounded, we sat there unmoved, in total disbelief.
CBS3 captured us all in defeat (yep, that’s me at the 43s mark) and we walked out of there stunned and dejected, in tears. Seeing the boys’ practice court lit up in Pearson-McGonigle on the walk home was a glimmer of hope that maybe we’d dreamed it, maybe the season wasn’t over. But it was. And that walk home from the watch party, the same walk I’ve made for three years now with the same sense of defeat after that final game, felt even longer. My freshman year, we lost to Cornell in our first game. My sophomore year, we lost to SDSU in double overtime after winning one game in the Dance. I didn’t think it could feel worse than that loss. But this year hurt just as much because we believed we could go farther. But it just wasn’t our year.
It’s still hard to process that another season’s over with. It’s hardly the way we wanted to go out, hardly the way anyone expected us to go out. So today, I’ll do some homework and I probably won’t watch a single basketball game. But tomorrow, I’ll be looking towards next year, and ready for another season.
It’ll be quiet on campus for a while. But these guys are our classmates and friends. Regardless of how they finished, they’re still Owls, and they’ve still made us proud this year. Our four seniors will graduate, move on, and who knows if they’ll touch a basketball court again. But they’ll always have given us this season and some great memories. We beat #3 Duke, we threw an insane white-out against Xavier, we won the Big Five, and we finished the 21st-ranked team in the country. Next year’ll be a fresh start. Then, maybe that’ll be our year.