When the student section began the “I Believe” chant with 20 seconds left in Thursday’s game game, senior center Safiya Martin, couldn’t help but to join in.
Martin threw her hands up and started clapping along with the students because she, too, knew that Temple had the game in the bag.
The Owls (6-3) beat DePaul University, the No. 17 team in the Associated Press Top 25, 84-74 at McGonigle Hall to remain undefeated on their home court.
This is Temple’s first win against a nonconference ranked team since Nov. 24, 2007, when the Owls beat then No. 22 Purdue University. Prior to this game, DePaul’s three losses were all against top five teams.
“This was a great win for us,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I just really thought that we were committed on the defensive side of really working and trying to communicate because of what they do and how potent their offense is, but it was a tremendous team effort.”
The Owls only got outscored in the second quarter, when the Blue Demons scored 19 points to Temple’s. DePaul maintained a fast pace, pushing the ball and generating a lot of points in transitions. Ten of DePaul’s points in the second quarter came off fast breaks, second chances or turnovers.
“As soon as the ball goes through the net, they’re up the floor,” Cardoza said. “We just had to be committed, no matter what happened, to sprinting back and communicating and finding people early.”
The Owls adjusted their defense for the second half and at times, would wait at half court during free throws so they could get back in time.
DePaul entered play averaging 81.8 points per game and with six players averaging more than eight points. Temple focused on defending the 3-point line, and DePaul ended the night 3-25 from behind the arc. The Blue Demons entered the game with a 33.9 percent rate from behind the 3-point arc, which ranked 104th in Division I. DePaul also shot at a lower percentage from the field than it had been averaging.
While DePaul struggled to make baskets, Temple found offensive success. Three Owls finished in double digits with senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald leading the way. Fitzgerald ended the night with 25 points. Junior guard Alliya Butts finished with 20 points and junior guard Donnaizha Fountain had 13.
With 13 points and 13 rebounds, Fountain recorded her second consecutive double-double after earning starts in the past two games.
“My coach is always telling me, ‘You’ve got to feed off your defense, go rebound the ball. Don’t worry about trying to score,’” Fountain said. “You rebound a ball and you’re going to get yourself going. Just [play] defense and the game just comes to you.”
Senior forward Ruth Sherrill was close to another double-double, as she notched eight points and 11 rebounds.
“Ruth, this is something that we haven’t seen,” Cardoza said. “She’s taking advantage of her opportunities and really focused and really being a leader and talking out there. I think her contribution is way bigger than what you see on the stat.”
Temple returns to the court Saturday on the road against Rutgers University. The Scarlet Knights are 2-4 so far in December.
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CaptainAMAURAca.