The women’s basketball team has gotten into the habit of starting games slowly.
Luckily, the Owls are also in the habit of climbing out of the holes that they dig for themselves.
Once again, the Owls showed that it’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters, by beating Dayton, 68-50, Sunday at the Liacouras Center. With the victory, Temple improved to 8-0 in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
Kamesha Hairston led the Owls (18-5 overall) with 17 points and seven rebounds. Backup forward Jasmine Stone scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbed six rebounds in only 23 minutes.
Fatima Maddox scored eight of her 10 points in the first half, while Ashley Morris scored all of her 11 points off the bench in the second half.
Temple got off to a slow start for the third straight game. The Owls struggled to find their shots and found themselves down 16-6 at the 13:03 mark in the first half.
“I thought we didn’t come out ready to play,” coach Dawn Staley said. “When our team comes out ready to play we’re usually able to compete against any team in the country. But when we give people 10-point leads, if that’s not a wake up call then they’re playing the wrong sport.
Staley said it doesn’t bother her when the team performs poorly early in the game, as long as they can shut down the opponent.
“I don’t mind slow starts if we’re not scoring and they’re not scoring,” Staley continued. “But when they’re scoring and we’re just going through the motions, that’s a problem. Today was a problem.”
Several Owls’ players expressed their discontent with the amount of contact the referees allowed underneath the basket at the start of the contest. Staley was hit with a technical foul with 7:49 left in the half after she voiced her displeasure with how the game was being officiated.
“I just thought that our team was being aggressive, going to the basket and I thought they were getting hit, so I voiced that. Just like that,” Staley said.
Junior Kiki Lund sunk both technical free-throws to push the Flyers lead to 26-15.
That is when Fatima Maddox caught fire.
Maddox scored all eight of her first-half points in the next four minutes to spark the Owls to a 29-28 lead with 2:16 left in opening stanza. The Owls finished the half on a 20-4 run to take a 35-30 advantage into intermission.
“You can tell when the morale of the team is getting down,” Maddox said. “I try to do my best to try to pick it up, just trying to say things. This time points came along with me saying things.”
Hairston, who was coming off of a season-low eight point performance against Xavier Friday, was held to only five points on four shots in the first half.
“I was stopping myself, probably, it wasn’t the defense,” Hairston said. “They were doing whatever they had to do to keep me from touching the ball, but I could’ve put forth, I guess, better effort.”
Hairston found her rhythm three minutes into the second half when she scored eight points on three consecutive shots, including a three-pointer from the left elbow. She then nailed a free-throw to give Temple a 48-36 lead with 12:29 remaining.
“I guess it felt good,” Hairston said about finding her shooting touch again. “I had to take what they were giving me and stop complaining.”
The Flyers came back and cut the lead to eight with 11:23 remaining, when Maddox hit a jumper and guard Ashley Morris embarked on her own 7-0 run to give the Owls a 57-42 lead with less than five minutes to go.
The Flyers went cold in the second half, shooting only 20.6 percent from the field and going 2-of-18 from the three-point line.
Junior Brittany Holterman led the Flyers with 21 points. She was the only player on her team to finish with a double-digit scoring total.
Temple will meet Richmond (10-13, 4-4) Friday at the Liacouras Center.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at Tyson@temple.edu.