PHILADELPHIA — Ryan Brooks once considered a walk-on offer at Temple because its scholarship allotment was filled. The Owls found a way to give Brooks that free ride, and four years later he found room in the Owls’ 1,000-point club.
All Brooks wants now is Temple’s first NCAA tournament win since 2001.
Brooks hit seven 3-pointers, scored a career-high 29 points and reached that personal milestone to lead No. 19 Temple to a 76-64 victory over Massachusetts on Saturday.
Brooks became the 45th player in school history to score 1,000 points, joining a group that included future NBA players Mark Macon, Eddie Jones and Aaron McKie. He needed 14 points entering the game and reached the mark late in the first half when his fourth 3 of the game gave him exactly 1,000 and the Owls (15-3, 3-0 Atlantic 10) a 30-13 lead.
“It’s definitely a great accomplishment for me,” Brooks said. “I knew about it coming into the game and just wanted to go out there and focus on getting the ‘W’ most importantly.”
The Owls made 14 of 25 3-pointers to lead by as many as 22 points in their 11th win in the last 12 games. Brooks was two off Temple’s single-game mark for 3s.
UMass (7-10, 1-3) got within 11 points at halftime only to see Brooks hit three 3-pointers on Temple’s first four baskets of the second half that put the lead at 20.
“I would have liked to have seen him score 1,000 today and have a nice easy victory,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
Brooks was Dunphy’s first recruit when he took over for retired Hall of Fame coach John Chaney. The 6-foot-4 guard passed the career high of 24 he set in December and has scored 19 or more points in five of the last nine games.
Brooks could have looked elsewhere when the Owls offered only the walk-on spot. When a recruit dropped out, Dunphy made the offer and Brooks quickly accepted.
“I was just fortunate to get this opportunity and take full advantage of it any way possible,” Brooks said. “To be in this position, I’m very thankful.”
So is Dunphy. His first recruit at Temple has turned into one of his best.
“I don’t know where I’d be at Temple University without Ryan Brooks,” Dunphy said.
Brooks can do more than hit from long range. He held UMass’ leading scorer Ricky Harris to 1-of-7 shooting and 11 points — well off his season average of 17.4.
“The best part of his game was his defense against Harris,” Dunphy said.
Brooks set the 3-point-happy tone early when he scored one for the first basket of the game. His next one made it 8-2 and his third 24-9, giving the Owls the huge cushion they would need to hold off the charging Minutemen.
Temple forward Lavoy Allen, who averaged 11.2 points, was scoreless until he made two free throws with 8:13 left that extended the lead back to double digits. Juan Fernandez, who scored 15 points, and Craig Williams followed with 3-pointers for a 66-53 lead that seemed to thwart UMass’ second-half scare.
Not so fast. UMass attacked the basket, using driving layups and a tip-in to keep the deficit at nine at the 3-minute mark.
Terrell Vinson missed a 3-pointer for UMass that could have made it a two-possession game. Luis Guzman hit two free throws, the lead was back to double digits and the Owls hung on for their fourth straight win.
UMass called a 60-second timeout trailing by 12 with 3.8 seconds left, and heard howling jeers from the crowd.
Anthony Gurley scored 20 points for UMass.
Temple went 20 of 22 from the free-throw line; UMass 5 of 10.
Temple is enjoying its finest season since 2000-01 when it reached the NCAA tournament regional final under Chaney. Dunphy guided the Owls to the tournament each of the last two seasons, but they were bounced in the first round each time.
“They played like an NCAA tournament team,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.
One A-10 unbeaten will fall Wednesday when Xavier (12-5, 4-0) visits Temple.
“I’m thrilled to be in this position that we’re in but we can do better,” Dunphy said.