NEW YORK — Sophomore forward Scootie Randall claims that Temple is starting to come together as one. If that’s the case, they were awfully good as a bunch of disparate parts.
Juan Fernandez scored 13 points before being injured and Randall added 12 points off the bench as No. 16 Temple came on to beat Fordham 62-45 at Rose Hill Gym on Saturday.
The win Saturday extended the Owls’ winning streak to six and the Rams’ skid to 11.
“We’re starting to come together,” Randall said.
The Owls won for the 13th time in 14 games and improved to 17-3, their best record after 20 games since their 1993-94 team also began 17-3. They’re also the lone Atlantic 10 team that’s undefeated in conference play, standing at 5-0.
The Rams (2-16, 0-6), who were led by freshman forward Chris Gaston’s 16 points and 10 rebounds, are 1-12 since Jared Grasso took over for the fired Dereck Whittenburg. Fordham also fell to 6-91 against ranked teams since The Associated Press began its weekly polls in 1948.
“Sometimes when teams’ records aren’t as good as the players are and they’re just losing, I think that starts to get to us a little bit, us coming out and thinking it’s going to be easy to win,” said Randall, who scored all his points from behind the arc. “I think we start off slow a lot of times against teams that are not on the same level as us.”
They broke open a three-point game by outscoring the Rams 40-26 in the second half even though they were eventually down two starters in the backcourt. Luis Guzman sat after the break due to soreness in an ankle that he hurt in practice on Friday, and Fernandez checked out with 10:40 to play after taking a blow to the head. He didn’t return for precautionary reasons and was to be reevaluated after the team returned to Philadelphia.
The Owls, coming off a 77-72 home win over Xavier on Wednesday, eventually built their cushion to as many as 23 without them. Temple shot 66.7 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes, making 16 of their 24 attempts, including 7 of 9 from 3-point range.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” said sophomore guard Ramone Moore, who had six points. “In the first half, guys were missing shots. We made that a challenge in the second half to come out and make more shots and extend the game and be able to get a good lead.”
After shooting only 28 percent from the floor, including 2 of 12 from 3-point range, and holding a 22-19 edge at halftime, Temple took control with a 16-4 burst to start the second half and went up 38-23.
Fernandez had just five points in the first half, but he made a pair of 3s in the first minute and a half to ignite the Owls.
“All of a sudden, it just started happening for us where Juan took on a whole different persona,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
Randall also buried two from behind 3-point stripe in the run. And the Rams, with three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup, were running uphill from there.
“I guess it’s Groundhog Day again,” Grasso said. “We played 22, 23 minutes and ran out of gas. Temple showed why they’re the 16th-ranked team and we showed how young we are.”
Grasso had his team play at an uncharacteristic slower pace to try to stay with the Owls. Fordham had an 11-10 lead with 9:24 to go in the half. A little more than a minute later, Fernandez nailed a 3 to give Temple the lead again at 13-11. The Rams headed to the locker room down three thanks to a 3-pointer by Danny Thompson just before the half expired.
This marked the sixth time Temple held a team to under 20 points in the first half. The Owls are the A-10’s top-ranked team in scoring defense, one big reason why they are residing in the top 25 for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
“Nobody is selfish,” Moore said. “Everybody is buying into what Coach is saying. It’s just one collective effort. Guys are just buying into whatever we’re trying to do. Winning feels good. At the end of the year, we want to be one of the top teams.”