After Temple's loss at SMU on Feb. 6, Fran Dunphy had what you could call a hunch.
"I don't know if coach is a psychic," senior Dalton Pepper said Sunday, "but after the game at SMU, he said we were going to win this game at home. In the three years I've been here, I've never heard him say that.
"And we came out and won."
Behind a game-high 24 points from Pepper, Temple knocked off No. 23 SMU, 71-64, Sunday at the Liacouras Center (see Instant Replay).
The win is Temple's first over a Top 25 opponent since March 10 of last year, when the Owls took down No. 21 VCU. Dunphy's team was previously 0-5 against the Top 25 this season. But under his watch, Temple has now beaten at least one Top 25 team in each of the last seven seasons.
In the more immediate sense, the result also snaps a four-game Temple losing streak. The Owls, now 7-17 overall and 2-10 in conference, were just 1-12 since the turn of the calendar, having beaten only Rutgers.
After Pepper exited the media room and Dunphy entered, a reporter asked if the story was true.
Dunphy thought for half a second before responding: "I think Dalton tells stories out of school too much."
"I just felt like, at the time, we were going to be OK at some point," he added. "I just threw that thought out to our guys. Lucky call by any stretch of the imagination."
It's been a rough season for Temple -- and Dunphy. Sunday's win was a relief for a team that had beaten only LIU Brooklyn and Rutgers since the first week of December. Earlier in the year, the Owls were playing teams tight; they've lost nine games by seven points are fewer.
But lately, the end results have gotten out of hand. Coming into Sunday, Temple had allowed its last eight opponents to shoot a combined 54 percent. It lost its last four games in a row by an average of 19.2 points. The Owls were down by as much as 36 in the second half just two nights ago.
"With five minutes to go, we looked like we were 30 points down," SMU head coach and former Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown said. "[Temple is] 1-10. They just got blown out by Louisville. And they looked like the team that was supposed to win. They had amnesia. And I think [Dunphy] does that."
It's as good an explanation as any. How else do you explain knocking off a ranked team without the best rebounder in the conference?
Temple power forward Anthony Lee (8.9 rebounds per game) didn't play Sunday with what's being called a "minor" left knee injury. Lee was dressed, with his knee in a brace, but he did not take the floor. Freshman Mark Williams started in his place and sophomore center Devontae Watson played a career-high 25 minutes to fill the void.
Now figure this out: SMU came into the game with the best rebounding differential in the conference. Temple came in with the worst. By the of the game, the Owls had outrebounded the Mustangs, 38-25, and scored 15 second-chance points off 12 offensive boards. Without Lee.
SMU also went a miserable 14 for 26 from the free-throw line, but Brown shrugged that off.
"It wasn't the free throws," he said. "We got outcoached. Fran did a great job of creating matchup problems for us. They controlled the tempo, they made all the effort plays. ... We didn't have an offensive rebound in the first half, and we got four for the game. I think that was the most significant thing."
"I wouldn't minimize, if I were analyzing the game, Mark Williams' two threes in the first half," Dunphy said. "They're huge to get us back to where we had to go. He also made a great play -- we were struggling in the second half, we were down four or five, not really running any kind of offense -- he makes a nice drive in the lane and throws a bullet to Devontae Watson, and he catches it."
Williams (10 points, seven rebounds) came into the game 4 for 25 from three.
As for Watson (eight points, eight rebounds), who made his 11th straight start, Dunphy said that he "gets life." That sounds like a good thing.
Watson said that he's gaining confidence and that he's happy to be playing a larger role than he did as a freshman, when he rarely left the bench.
Quote Dunphy: "I'm happy that he's happy."
But, for a kid who rarely gets animated, it's hard to imagine anyone was happier than Pepper.
"It feels good to finally pull one out," he said. "We're coming into our last six games. Our conference tournament is coming up. ... This is when teams get better or they fall down.
"Going into the tournament, this is a great league, anybody can beat anybody. I think if a few balls bounce our way, I think we can beat anybody as well."