Senior Kamesha Hairston refused to let another team take away Temple’s Big 5 title Monday night.
Led by Hairston, the Owls defeated La Salle, 68-55, to capture their third consecutive Big 5 title at the Liacouras Center.
With the win, the Owls improved to 10-0 in the Atlantic Ten Conference and reached 20 victories for the fifth time in coach Dawn Staley’s seven-year tenure.
“I think 20 wins is a good number when you look at the scheme of things,” Staley said. “I’m extremely proud of our team because when we did start 4-4 everybody did talk about the slow start and everybody talked about life after Candice Dupree. Our team competed … We constantly get better, we always try to push and get better.”
Hairston helped the Owls (20-5 overall, 4-0 Big 5) capture their ninth straight victory over the Explorers (16-10, 4-7 A-10, 2-2 Big 5). The senior forward finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds to secure her 10th double-double of the season.
Sophomore Shenita Landry scored a career-high 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Freshman LaKeisha Eaddy finished with 13 points and junior Lady Comfort chipped in with 10.
Landry and Comfort proved to be a formidable frontcourt combination for the Owls.
“It’s just constantly practicing with her,” Landry said of the duo’s chemistry. “Constantly getting reps in practice makes it easier to play with her in games. It’s just [our] communication.”
The Owls have won four of the last six Big 5 titles. They have won 14 consecutive games in the city series.
“It’s important,” Hairston said of the Big 5 title. “We’re all competing out here. It’s like a rivalry so you want to win it … it just feels good.”
“You want the bragging rights of knowing that you competed and won against some of the best teams in the city,” Staley said.
The Owls have rattled off five straight wins after losing to Rutgers, 62-48, on Jan. 28.
Temple has won 16 of its last 17 games since starting the season at 4-4.
Against the Explorers, all five of the Owls’ starters scored a point by the 14 minute mark with Hairston scoring 11 on 5-of-9 shooting in the first half.
Carlene Hightower, the Explorers’ leading scorer, was held to 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Senior Crista Ricketts led the Explorers with 18 points.
The Owls out-rebounded the Explorers, 40-22.
“One of the keys for us to get this win was to crush them on the boards,” Staley said. “We knew we had height and girth to take up some room in the paint and get some extra possessions. I thought we just had some great effort from a lot of people to make that happen.”
Temple is 17-2 when they win the battle of the boards this season.
The Owls play their last home game against Saint Louis (16-9, 4-6 A-10) Thursday at the Liacouras Center, before finishing the season with three straight road games at Charlotte (17-8, 8-2), Duquesne (7-16, 2-8) and George Washington (21-2, 10-0).
Tyson McCloud can be reached at Tyson@temple.edu.