Two years ago, the women’s basketball team was in the midst of a historic run.The Owls compiled a 27-3 regular season record and captured the Atlantic Ten Conference
Championship after winning a team-record
25 games in a row.
The streak came to an abrupt end, however,
when the Owls lost to a higher-seeded Rutgers team in the second round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament. This year, Rutgers has the chance to spoil yet another double-digit Temple winning streak.
The Owls will put their 11-game winning streak on the line against Rutgers Wednesday at the Liacouras Center. It will be Temple’s last non-conference game of the season. The Owls (15-4 overall, 5-0 A-10) are 10-4 in non-conference games this season.After a rocky start to the season, the Scarlet Knights (10-5, 5-1 Big East Conference) are beginning to hit their stride.
The Scarlet Knights were on a five-game winning streak, but dropped their latest contest to Big East Conference rival Louisville Sunday.
They have won eight of their last 10 games after starting the season with a 2-4 record.
Asked if she would’ve liked to play Rutgers
earlier in the season, Owls coach Dawn Staley said, “We both were struggling, so it probably would’ve been an ugly game.”
Rutgers and Temple were both 4-4 through the first eight games of the season. “I think it will probably be a little cleaner now that we’ve got a couple of games under our belts,” Staley said. “Regardless of what we’re bringing in and what they’re bringing in, we’ve always played a tough game [against each other].”
Temple narrowly defeated the ninth-ranked Rutgers, 48-47, last season in New Brunswick, N.J. The victory marked the Owls’ first over a top-10 team in program history.
Senior Kamesha Hairston played 40 minutes and had five points and three steals against Rutgers last season. She said she didn’t know what to expect from this season’s Rutgers squad.
“It’s a different team without Cappie [Pondexter],” Hairston said of the now-WNBA star.Pondexter guided the Scarlet Knights to Big East Championships in 2005 and 2006.
The 5-foot-9 guard, who now plays for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, led Rutgers in scoring at 21.6 points per game last season.
With Pondexter gone, freshman guard Epiphanny Prince has filled the scoring void for the Scarlet Knights. Prince, who is averaging 15.7 points per game, is one of five freshmen on a team that has two sophomores, three juniors and no seniors.
“They’re young,” Staley said. “They’re a lot different than what they’ve been in the past. “We’ll have a little bit more experience than them and hopefully we’ll use it to our advantage.”
The unranked Scarlet Knights pulled off an upset earlier this month when they beat Pittsburgh, the No. 22-ranked team in the nation at the time, by 24 points. Rutgers was ranked 26th in Ratings Percentage
Index through Jan. 14, according to NCAA.com. RPI is a rating system that calculates winning percentage, strength of schedule and opponent strength of schedule.
It is used to determine the seeding of teams in the NCAA Tournament. Temple was ranked 55th in RPI.
“We need some big wins,” Staley said. “We don’t have a whole lot of teams [on the schedule] that have a high RPI. Rutgers is one of them, Xavier is one of them, George Washington’s another one. We’re marking the calendar to where we can get some big wins in the NCAA selection committee’s eyes. But we’re not taking anybody lightly. We’re not taking anybody lightly at all.”
Staley said Saturday that the key to the Owls 11-game winning streak has been defense.
Temple has allowed an average of 53.8 points per game during the streak. The team has allowed 58.2 points per game this season and ranks second in scoring defense in the A-10 behind George Washington.
“We’re not letting [teams] score a lot of points and I knew that coming into this year that’s one thing that we would be able to do is just defend,” Staley said.On the offensive end, the Owls have scored 71 points per game in the last 11 games, almost three points higher than their season average.
“I didn’t think we were capable of scoring
as many points as we’ve scored in the 19 games we’ve played,” Staley said. “I didn’t know where the scoring was going to come from. But at different points of the season, you’ve got Kamesha – she’s going to get you 20 [points].
“We were hoping Lady [Comfort] would give us 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds per game]. It hasn’t been that way all season but certainly other people are getting the job done. LaKeisha [Eaddy] has been scoring when we’ve needed her to score the most. It’s been good to see some of the younger players step up and help us get some wins.”
Comfort, the Owls’ second leading scorer,
is averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.Eaddy, the Owls’ freshman guard, has averaged 7.1 points per game. She leads the team in assists with 76.
The Owls have gained confidence after starting the season 4-4, Staley said
“Since that point we really haven’t looked back,” Staley said. “We had some great performances in losing those four games, but I think we also found out who we were. We can play with anybody, anywhere, anytime. Once you get that confidence, you’re able to take that into other games and build on it.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at