Guru Report: Temple Locks Down Rutgers in 2nd Half for Third Straight Win
(Note: Below this post is one on the record marathon wait for the Rutgers postgame presser).
By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – It looked like let-down city for Temple following the Owls’ upset of No. 17 Duke Thursday night in McGonigle Hall back in Philadelphia.
And by early in the second quarter at the same moment with a 13-point 23-10 lead it also looked like revival city for the season-long struggling Rutgers squad that Wednesday rallied over in-state rival Seton Hall for just the third win of the season.
By the end, however, the Owls found a way Saturday afternoon to rally to a 48-37 victory, their third straight, by limiting the opposition to just 11 second-half points to snap a six-game losing streak to the Scarlet Knights (3-10) with whom they once had a long Atlantic 10 rivalry.
They also spent one year together in the American Athletic Conference during Rutgers’ transition out of the old Big East on the way to the Big Ten, which the Scarlet Knights begin play for the third season on Dec. 28 at Michigan before hosting Penn State in a New Year’s Eve afternoon tilt.
On Saturday in the Rutgers Athletic Center, the points were popping from the Temple (7-3) backcourt again, though while Feyonda Fitzgerald continued an outstanding week from last Saturday’s win at Villanova, through the DePaul triumph, and here Saturday afternoon, when she scored 19 points, dealt four assists and grabbed six steals, the other big production came from Donnaizha Fountain, who scored 15 points.
Fountain’s offensive thrust, though she came into the game off two straight double double efforts, was necessary this time since Alliya Butts was 0-for-10 from the field, scoring just two points courtesy of free throw attempts.
Ruth Sherrill, who has been a starter for the first time and continued through all three games of the win streak, grabbed nine rebounds.
If Villanova were not struggling and Rutgers totally out of sorts with its young roster – Desiree Keeling was the only one in double figures with 10 points – Temple’s week-long action would have the Owls knocking on the doors of NCAA tournament projection by the bracketologists.
Keeling also grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked four shots and had a steal.
As it is, the Owls could get to NCAA at-large talk eventually with a strong run in the American Athletic Conference that begins New Year’s Day at Memphis after virtually wrapping up non-conference play Thursday hosting Fairfield at 2 p.m.
Still left are a visit To Kennesaw State on Jan. 4 and a visit to Penn at The Palestra on Jan. 25 that could give them the Big Five title at 4-0, though they could back in if Villanova loses to the Quakers the previous week, also at The Palestra.
A Villanova win and Temple loss to Penn creates a tie.
Temple was picked second behind top-ranked UConn, who the Owls will meet twice, hosting the Huskies for a change in the Liacouras Center on Feb. 1 instead of the smaller McGonigle Hall venue where most games are played.
“All three wins are good,” Owls coach Tonya Cardoza said of the current run. “Villanova gave us the Big Five, DePaul was a good win for us, obviously, and we hadn’t beaten Rutgers in six years.
“Just the way we played. We talked about (Rutgers’) record may not be a good record but they play hard and they’re trying, they’re just, you know, down a lot of guys they were expecting,” she continued. “And the fact that this is a game we would lose in the past. Being down 12, on the road, we’d find a way to lose this game.
“I like the way we came out in the second half. Donnaizha has been a spark for us. Ruth has, too. Ruth didn’t score a lot of points, but she led us in rebounding. I think since she’s been in the starting lineup she’s been averaging 10 rebounds a game.
“’Fee’s just been great for us all season and even though Alliya wasn’t making any shots, she didn’t lose her mind. She stayed in the game and was still trying.”
Temple forced 21 turnovers and committed just 12 and led 18-7 in transition points. In the fourth quarter the Owls outscored the Scarlet Knights 9-4, holding Rutgers to 12.5 percent from the field on 2-for-16 attempts, which followed a 21-7 score for Temple in the third.
“We held them to 11 points. We definitely changed up how we were guarding them. They were taking advantage of us in man. Usually we’re not a good zone (defense) team but we just decided to play them zone. I didn’t want to play them zone but that was the way to slow them down.”
The other hot team in town at the moment is Drexel, which hosts Saint Joseph’s at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon before the Drexel men play the second game of a doubleheader. That’s where the Guru will be.
The Hawks finally had a big production Tuesday night, beating visiting NJIT, but the Dragons will be a step up the opposition ladder.
Elsewhere, Princeton gets a tough test visiting Kansas State, while Penn State will host American U.
Nationally, can unranked Tennessee stop its string of Sunday’s losses, when the Lady Vols host No. 10 Stanford. They’ve lost on four straight Sunday dates (not weeks of) at Penn State and Virginia Tech and home to Baylor and at Texas.
No. 9 UCLA visits No. 6 South Carolina.
On Monday, top-ranked Connecticut hosts No. 12 Ohio State, one of two foreseen barriers on what could be possibly a new NCAA record run of 99 straight prior to hosting South Carolina in February.
The Huskies hold the current record at 90 and are at 84,