Women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley has said it several times this season: Lady Comfort has the potential to put up 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Comfort turned in that type of performance Saturday.
The 6-foot-2 junior center scored a career-high 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Owls to a 66-54 win over Rhode Island at the Liacouras Center.
Comfort notched her second double-double of the season before halftime.
She scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds before sitting out the final two minutes, 46 seconds of the first half after picking up her second foul.
Comfort’s performance helped the Owls’ (15-4 overall, 5-0 Atlantic Ten Conference) extend their season-high winning streak to 11 games.
“We knew our advantage would be on the inside against Rhode Island,” Staley said. “Lady licks her chops when we say we have to get the ball inside. I think she’s coming out and playing with a certain determination because I know she knows that she plays an intricate part in our success on the offensive end.”
Comfort averaged 10.8 points in the Owls’ first seven games. She was suspended for the Owls’ eighth game, a 77-66 loss to nationally-ranked Maryland at the Liacouras Center. That loss dropped Temple to 4-4.
Since the Maryland game, Comfort has averaged 14.7 points per contest and the Owls are 11-0.
“After I sat out the Maryland game, I realized that I just have to get myself together,” Comfort said. “I need the team as much as they need me, so I figured I would try to be [more] consistent, [since] I really haven’t [been] … I’m just trying to help the team out as much as I can.”
Staley said Comfort is also giving more on the defensive end.
“I thought Lady came out and did a great job defensively, just being more active, getting deflections and getting steals,” Staley said. “That’s where I need her to play more active. If she’s active defensively, she’s going to be more active offensively.”
Temple established a 28-20 lead over the Rams (4-15, 2-3) by halftime.
The Owls opened the second half on a 15-4 run sparked by senior Fatima Maddox, who scored nine of her 17 points in the span of about four minutes.
Maddox, who registered a 21-point, five-assist performance in the Owls’ 63-59 win at Massachusetts Thursday, went 7-of-14 from the field against the Rams.
“I think she’s reaping the benefits of people keying in on Kamesha [Hairston],” Staley said. “Fatima’s putting herself in a position to make shots and it’s a good thing.”
Hairston went 4-of-15 shooting, but scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half. The senior forward pulled down 10 rebounds to finish with her eighth double-double of the season.
The Rams trailed the Owls, 47-26, with 12:56 remaining.
Rhode Island cut the lead down to 13 with about seven minutes remaining.
A pair of free throws from Hairston and a three-pointer from Maddox put the Owls up 57-39 with 6:21 left.
Hairston sank two more free throws to push the Owls’ lead back to 20 with 6:05 left.
Rams junior Saif Mojidi finished with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting.
Staley received a surprise when former men’s basketball coach John Chaney came over to talk to her during the second half.
“He always tells me he loves me,” Staley said. “He said he’s coming to the game on Wednesday, when we play Rutgers.
“Coach is Coach,” Staley continued. “Coach has influenced whoever has come into his presence. Certainly, he has helped me develop into a feisty coach, a cursing coach, [a] no-holds-barred [coach] and a disciplined coach.
“He is somebody that I looked at to instill discipline in our players, to play a certain way, to approach the game a certain way. A lot of times when you do it that way you put yourself in a position to get more wins then you would if” you didn’t.
The Owls face Rutgers (10-5, 5-1 Big East Conference) Wednesday at the Liacouras Center. It will be the Owls’ last non-conference game of the season
Tyson McCloud can be reached at Tyson@temple.edu.