Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said his team couldn’t afford to blink an eye against Temple’s matchup zone defense.
That wasn’t a problem. The Hawks had their eyes fixed on the basket and their feet planted behind the three-point arc the entire game. They kept shooting the long ball until it was time to go home, and they didn’t miss many.
And spotting the No. 3 team in the nation an early seven-point lead was not the best way for Temple to craft an upset. St. Joe’s trounced the Owls, 83-71, at the Liacouras Center Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 10, 421, announced as the largest crowd ever to see a basketball game at the six-year-old venue.
Temple (7-10, 2-5) watched in disarray as the Hawks (18-0, 8-0) swished a season-high 20 of 36 three-pointers. Most of the time, the Owls were only a couple steps away from getting a hand in the way of a Hawks’ hoist. But there are several reasons why the Hawks are still undefeated, and one of them is its ability to consistently drain the three ball.
All-America candidate Jameer Nelson finished with 21 points and seven assists. All six of his field goals were from behind the arc. Guard Delonte West scored 21, and backcourt mate Pat Carroll finished with 20. Coincidentally, Nelson, West and Carroll each shot 6-for-11 from the field.
“Well, I think our team recognized something: That we’re not a good shooting ballclub, we don’t shoot the ball well at all,” Temple coach John Chaney said. “We’ve got one player in David [Hawkins]…you just can’t stop him, he’ll will wins on you. But it also shows that we make other teams better, make them a great team.”
Chaney was talking about St. Joe’s 55.6 percent shooting from behind the arc and 52.6 percent from the field, the fourth straight game they have shot above 50 percent. And by halftime, the Hawks had connected on 11 treys.
Temple made 44.4 percent of its shots from the field, but shot a paltry 16.7 percent from three-point range.
Temple did, however, outscore St. Joe’s in the paint, 38-8, but center Keith Butler only produced two points and two rebounds in 25 minutes of action. The rest of the Owls’ frontcourt combined for 10 points.
The Hawks put four players in double-figures, compared to the Owls’ two-guard tandem of Hawkins (36 points) and Mardy Collins (21).The two combined for 57 points, while no other Owl scored more than four.
Hawkins, who is not known for giving pre-game speeches, tried to emphasize the game’s importance. His words fell on deaf ears.
“Today, I gave three of them,” he said. “I just wanted to let them know that I’m going to be there for them and I’m going to play hard, just play hard with me.”
That didn’t happen, save Collins’s performance.
Temple had scoring droughts of 4:20 and 2:53 in the first and second halves, respectively, during which Butler was manhandled and freshman guard Dustin Salisbery could barely hit the rim. The Owls misfired on numerous free throws, connected on just 11-of-25 attempts from the line.
Temple came alive at the 8:10 mark of the second half, when it scored 10 straight unanswered points. But by then, it was too late. The score had looked somewhat respectable, and the “overrated” chants faded in the waning moments.
Some Hawks had smiles and smirks on their faces, probably basking in the thought of the shooting clinic they had just demonstrated, or maybe the likelihood of being undefeated with the season more than halfway finished.
“We knew that we were going to be able to get some looks against the zone,” Carroll said. “Temple’s zone is tough, but I didn’t know that we were going to put up 36 three’s. Fortunately, they were going in today.”
Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com.