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Grad student sparks Temple

Jake O’Brien made sure his first NCAA tournament game would not be his last.

The Boston University graduate, who is in his first season as a grad student at Temple, hit 7 of 9 shots and scored 18 points in his tournament debut Friday afternoon to help guide the ninth-seeded Owls to a 76-72 upset of No. 8 North Carolina State in an East Region second-round game at UD Arena.

“Everyone dreams of playing on this stage,” said O’Brien, a 6-foot-9 forward who graduated from BU last spring with a degree in marketing and a season of eligibility remaining.

“BU’s going to the Patriot League next year, so the American East banned them from the conference tournament, kind of eliminating their chance of going to the postseason,” O’Brien said. “I decided to transfer because I wanted to come to a school that could compete for the tournament. I wanted to find a program where I could come in and be a major contributor and a team that had a chance to play in games like this.”

Starting his seventh game of the season, O’Brien hit three consecutive 3-pointers early and scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half to help Temple race to a big lead it would never relinquish.

Looking ahead: Top-seeded Indiana routed James Madison 83-62 in the second game Friday, and Hoosiers coach Tom Crean won’t let the Hoosiers overlook Temple. The teams meet Sunday at UD Arena.

“I could be wrong on this, but they basically missed the Selection Show because they were still in a meeting going over what had happened in their last game,” Crean said “That’s a serious team. That’s a game not to be taken lightly.”

Distraction ditty: The Temple University band implemented an unusual distraction tool Friday when the North Carolina State players were shooting free throws.

Instead of the tradition arm waving, band members broke out in song, singing the school’s alma mater at the top of their lungs.

“It’s something we started last game and it’s kind of fun,” band member Jeremy Weber said.

There’s no telling how much of an impact it had, but the Wolfpack shot 25 percent (1 of 4) from the line with the band in their face in the first half, compared with 75 percent (9 of 12) in the second half when they shot at the other end.

Respect rendered: Those who questioned the Atlantic 10 Conference receiving four at-large bids to send a record-tying five teams into the NCAA tournament likely aren’t saying much now.

No. 9 Temple’s 76-72 upset of No. 8 North Carolina St. on Friday made the A-10 5-0 in the tournament, and about an hour later No. 13 La Salle made it 6-0 with a 63-61 upset of No. 4 Kansas State in Kansas City.

“Getting five bids speaks a lot,” O’Brien said. “It’s a great league. Every game was a battle this year, and it’s showing now.”

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