The men’s basketball team went into cruise control a little too early as Fordham fought back from a 25-point deficit on Wednesday. Temple managed to hang on, however, as the Owls won, 77-66.
Temple came out to a hot start as they led Fordham, 37-12, with seven minutes and 27 seconds remaining in the first half. Fordham managed to claw its way back into the competition by ending the half on a 17-7 run. Despite the late surge, the Owls still held a commanding 18-point lead at halftime.
The Rams managed to cut Temple’s lead to three with 13:17 remaining. After dominating the first half, the suddenly small lead was a result of Temple’s lack of focus, junior guard Ramone Moore said.
“It was kind of disappointing but I think they came out and played pretty well,” Moore said. “We weren’t hitting shots, they were. We got complacent out there. We weren’t realizing that they had nothing to lose. We can’t just let that happen.”
“[Temple coach Fran Dunphy] is real upset with us and I think he should be,” Moore added. “We did a bad job coming out in the second half.”
Moore and company managed to go on a 16-7 run over the next 9:30 to give themselves some breathing room. All in all, Fordham managed to shoot 51.7 percent in the second half compared to Temple’s 24.2 percent.
Moore had 22 points off of 7 of 17 shooting, his second-highest total of the season. The game marked the first time that Moore had scored more than 20 points since Dec. 18, a span of 12 games.
Junior center Micheal Eric scored all 12 of his points and grabbed all seven of his rebounds in the first half before Dunphy decided to go with a smaller lineup. Eric simply did not match up well with Fordham’s speed in the second half, Dunphy said.
In addition to Moore and Eric, three other Owls scored in double digits. Junior forward Scootie Randall scored 12 while sophomore forward Rahlir Jefferson and junior guard Juan Fernandez chipped in 10 a piece.
“It’s a feel thing,” Dunphy said. “Rahlir’s quicker. They have an advantage in speed up front with Gaston, who’s a hard guard for anybody. That’s all. We went to Rahlir and Rahlir gave us more energy and he got to spots faster.”
While Fernandez scored in double digits for the first time since Jan. 5, the 6-foot-4-inch guard still struggled with his shot. Fernandez shot 2 of 9 from the field, including 2 of 7 from three-point land. Fernandez needs to regain his composure for the Owls to have future success, Dunphy said.
“His confidence isn’t great,” Dunphy said. “There was a stretch where he had three open looks and none of them went down… I think he’ll be fine… We’re going to need him to be really tough and really strong and really confident.”
The Owls shot just 33.8 percent from the floor but out-rebounded the Rams, 49-36, including 24-10 on the offensive end.
Fordham sophomore forward Chris Gaston led the Rams with 27 points on 11 of 19 shooting. The reigning Atlantic Ten Conference Rookie of the Year has averaged 15.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Rams.
Senior forward Lavoy Allen grabbed 14 points, including 10 on the offensive end, but exited the game late in the second half with an ankle sprain. Allen’s status for Saturday’s game against Dayton is unknown.
“He was limping pretty bad,” Moore said. “Hopefully he can play Saturday, we’re going to need him. If he can’t, we’re just going to have to go without him.”
The win improved the Owls to 18-5 overall and 8-2 in the A-10.Tipoff is set for 1 p.m in Dayton on Saturday. The game can be viewed on ESPNU.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org