The Temple Owls (17-3, 5-0) retained the only undefeated record in the Atlantic-10 Conference after defeating the Fordham Rams (2-16, 0-6), 62-45 in a conference contest at the Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon. The defeat, although not unexpected, was a disappointment for the large crowd of Fordham rooters. Many of the fans had earlier in the day attended the annual Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony.
Temple, thus far, has compiled one of its best early season marks. Currently ranked #16/17 in national polls, The Owls defeated top 5 ranked Villanova on December 13. Two of its three losses came at the hands of ranked teams. Georgetown edged Temple, 46-45, and the Owls were blown out by Kansas, then #1 ranked. Its only other defeat was by the St. John’s Red Storm.
Fordham, on the other hand, has started horribly. Its head coach, Derek Whittenburg, was fired after coaching the first five games of the season. The slow start followed a 3-25 record in the 2008-9 season. The current head coach, Jared Grasso, the youngest head coach in Division I men’s basketball, has led the team to only one victory in 12 contests.
The background of the two teams seemed totally irrelevant as they battled evenly during the first half. The score was knotted three times and the lead changed hands five times during the first 10 minutes. A layup by Fordham’s Chris Gaston at 9:25 gave Fordham its final lead of the game. The half ended with the visitors leading, 22-19. The stats for the teams were very similar. Both shot below 30% from the floor. Each only netted two treys and grabbed 18 boards.
Temple’s three more free throws than Fordham were the difference between the two. Veteran coach Fran Dunphy spoke of his team’s poor start, “I have no idea why we start so slow. We had decent looks in the first half, but we didn’t make them.”
Temple adjusted well in the second half, and began the period with a 16-4 scoring run to take a 38-23 lead with 13:45 remaining. Temple continued its domination of the contest, raising its advantage to 23 points. Fordham closed the game outscoring the visitors 14-8, but it was too little, too late. Temple’s shooting from the floor was outstanding. The Owls netted 16 of 24 attempts, 7 of 9 from beyond the arc. Dunphy credited his bench players, who outscored Fordham 26-12, for creating the separation during the second half. Sophomore Scootie Reynolds, averaging less than two points per game, scored all 12 of his points in the second half on four of five from three point range. Grasso talked of his team’s inability to play effectively for 40 minutes,
“We played 22-23 minutes, and ran out of gas.” Grasso, as he often does, spoke of the youth of his freshmen dominated squad, “We showed how young we are. In the second half, they made more shots, and we didn’t respond. Sometimes, you see the difference between upperclassmen and freshmen.” Grasso did speak very positively of the effort his players make, “They’re playing hard. The effort is there. I’m not disappointed.”
Freshman Chris Gaston of the Rams, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, continued his double digit average in both categories with 16 points and 10 rebounds.