Eight of the eleven players that checked in for the Quinnipiac Bobcats against the Temple Owls were freshman or sophomores. "Youth" has been the theme over Quinnipiac's first four games this season, and it showed itself on the floor as Quinnipiac saw a ten point lead with three minutes left cut to two with under a minute to play.
Luckily for the Bobcats, that "youth" was able to hold on and defeat the Owls, 58-56, despite three chances for the Owls' to tie or the take the lead on their final possession. The win is the first in program history against Temple, and extends Quinnipiac home winning streak to 17 games dating back to last season.
Feyonda Fitzgerald came into the game averaging 26 points per game for the Owls. Fitzgerald was held in check, only scoring 13 points, and was the focus of Quinnipiac's defense throughout the game.
"We had to play (Fitzgerald) straight up," junior guard Adily Martucci said. "She's a great athlete, great player. She can shoot, drive, and do everything. We just had to play straight up with her, and the coaches they gave us great instructions that we were able to pick up and get it done."
"They tried to take away the baseline drives a lot," said Temple Head Coach Tanya Cardoza. "They just tried to contain and funnel her into areas where they were definitely going to have three people to guard her. They just did a really good job. It was a really good game plan containing us."
Maria Napolitano played in her first full game of the season for the Bobcats, and came up big in the second half for her team, scoring seven of her 12 points after halftime.
"It felt great," Napolitano said. "I think I was a little out of control, so I was just trying to find my rhythm, and I know I'll get it, but it felt great. It was really good to get out there and play with them, and not just be a coach from the sideline."
Napolitano shot 1-8 in the first half, and her team found themselves trailing to Temple by two. The end of the third quarter was the key for the Bobcats, as they ended the quarter on an 11-2 run. That run would carry into the fourth, as Quinnipiac took its largest lead of the game, 53-42.
"The second half, we just came out, moved the ball better and took care of the ball," Bobcats Head Coach Tricia Fabbri said. "We just shot the ball better in the second half and everyone was in on the game. To be able to build up that ten point margin and be playing our best Quinnipiac basketball to date was really good."
Despite Quinnipiac being in control of the game for much of the second half, it seemed like everything started falling apart just in time for Temple to make a run and steal the game. Numerous turnovers in the final minutes hurt the Bobcats.
Quinnipiac went without a field goal for the final 3:12 as the Owls went on an 8-0 run to close the game, but never were able to re-take the lead. Cardoza says unfortunately her team has seen this story before.
"It's the same thing that happened in our last game," Cardoza said. We dig ourselves a hole just because were not doing the things that were supposed to. Same thing happened today. We dug ourselves a whole, down ten with two minutes left. We found a way to have someone step up and make a play. We feed off of that and then go on a little run, but again it's too late. We have to find ways to start the game like that, and not sit around and wait."
The Bobcats were able to hold on after a collapse that nearly cost themselves a win. Fabbri says in addition to being a young team, it's hard to tell players one thing all game, and then expect them to be able to change the way they play in a seconds notice.
"I just think it's our aggressive nature of how we play," Fabbri said. "To tell us to slow down is a hard thing to do. Just point blank. We came up with every offensive rebound (in the last three minutes), and then we have to kick it out and slow it down. We have to get better at that. That's anti-Quinnipiac basketball, in terms of the style of how we play. So that's just something that we need to see and learn from, and we'll get better from it."