After losing by one-point at Saint Joseph’s on Friday, the women’s basketball team was looking to reestablish itself as the lone dominant team in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
Heading into their Sunday afternoon game with conference foe Massachusetts, the No. 20 Owls needed a balanced offensive game to shake their most recent loss.
The Owls more than accomplished that in an 85-50 win over the visiting Minutewomen.
Junior forward Kamesha Hairston, who led all scorers with 22 points, also had 12 rebounds, for her first double-double of the season. The win moved the Owls to 15-5 overall and 6-2 in conference play.
The 85-point outburst was a season high for Temple and was the most points it has scored at the Liacouras Center since Nov. 17, 2000.
The Owls were in control midway through the first half. Ten of the 11 Owls who suited up registered a field goal. Senior forward Khadija Bowens scored 19 points, on 8-of-12 shooting, while point guard Fatima Maddox and all-American candidate Candice Dupree chipped in 14 points each.
Dupree and starting center Lady Comfort got in foul trouble early, which forced the Owls to rely on their perimeter game. Red-hot shooting guided Temple in the win, as they shot 66 percent from three-point range.
The Owls jumped out to an early 8-0 lead within the first three minutes of the game. UMass (6-14, 3-6) cut the lead to four points, at 15-11, with a little over 11 minutes to play in the first half. Consecutive jump shots from Maddox and Bowens near the five-minute mark gave the Owls their biggest lead of the half, a 27-15 advantage.
The Minutewomen trimmed the lead by just a point before halftime, heading into the intermission behind, 32-21.
And UMass wouldn’t get any closer, as the Owls opened the second half shooting the lights out. The Owls connected on six of their first seven shot attempts, including two three-pointers from Hairston and Bowens and two three-point plays from Dupree. Their scoring proficiency lasted until the final buzzer. The Owls shot nearly 60 percent from the field in the second half and 70 percent from three-point land.
Coach Dawn Staley said she believed her team’s hot shooting was a result of the up-tempo pace that her team established early and was able to maintain throughout the game.
“We see a lot of zones,” Staley said. “So we wanted to push the ball and not allow the zone to get set up. … When you do this, you are able to get a lot of good looks at the basket.”
The Owls capitalized on those good looks and shot over 50 percent from the field for the second straight game. The difference between Sunday’s win over UMass and Friday’s loss at St. Joe’s wasn’t just in the outcome. In the two games, the Owls struggled with their assist-to-turnover ratio.
They tallied 22 assists against the Minutewomen and committed eight turnovers. In Friday’s game with the Hawks, the Owls had 20 assists but turned the ball over 19 times.
Staley said she didn’t think the Owls’ turnovers against the Hawks were the biggest problem.
“A lot of our turnovers [against St. Joe’s] were offensive fouls,” Staley said. “I’d rather take offensive fouls rather than just throwing the ball away. You take five or six of those away, and we are right were I expected us to be.”
Despite the disparity in the final score, the Owls only managed to outrebound the Minutewomen by eight. The team was forced to pick up the rebounding slack after Comfort, who had 10 boards in the first half, was forced to sit early in the second half after registering her fourth foul.
Hairston crashed the glass and limited UMass to nearly one shot per possession.
“I don’t think I have been rebounding the way that I should [be],” Hairston said. “I decided that I had to [Sunday] because we really needed it.”
Jennifer Owens, the Owls’ starting point guard through 16 games, missed her third straight game with a left ankle injury, which she sustained in the Owls’ victory over then-ninth-ranked Rutgers two weeks ago.
“Right now she is day to day, but we wanted her back today,” Staley said. “We are going to let our medical staff handle it and just play the people that we can play.”
Productivity from the position hasn’t been an issue. Maddox has scored an average of 13.5 points in the Owls’ last two games, which she has started. She has tallied five assists in both games, as well.
“[Fatima] is really seizing the moment,” Staley said. “She is doing a tremendous job in trying to run our basketball team. That’s something that is not an easy feat.”
The Owls will be in action on Friday, as they take on Richmond in the second game of their three-game home stand. The Spiders (8-13, 3-6) were one of three A-10 teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season.
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at email@example.com.