Defensive effort pushes Temple past first-place Charlotte

Temple Women’s Basketball moved to a game behind first place in the conference with its 73-68 win against Charlotte Sunday afternoon at The Liacouras Center.

Tristen Taylor scored the late game basket to put Temple up 5 in the Owls' win over the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Following its loss to a struggling Memphis team on Jan. 14, Temple Women’s Basketball had a full week to reset and prepare for Charlotte, who entered the game tied for first in the American Athletic Conference. The Owls needed to pick up a big win Sunday to keep pace with the top teams in the conference.

Temple rose to the occasion against the 49ers, putting immense pressure on Charlotte’s offense throughout the game before taking the lead late in the second quarter. The Owls’ offense found its groove in the second half while the defense held off Charlotte the rest of the way.

Temple (10-8, 4-2 AAC) took down Charlotte (12-7, 5-2 AAC) 73-68 Sunday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. The Owls are now just one game behind first place in the AAC.

“We knew Charlotte coming in was number one in the conference, but we did not let that sway us,” said Temple head coach Diane Richardson. “We knew we had to be us, and I asked for 1,000 percent. They gave 1,000 percent today.”

Charlotte began to cut into Temple’s double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter, closing the gap to as little as five points. However, Temple guard Aleah Nelson hit back-to-back three pointers with about three minutes left to keep the Owls in front. 

“Everybody was screaming at me to be ready to shoot,” Nelson said. “Coach Richardson tells me that big time players make big time plays, and that’s what I felt like in the moment.”

The 49ers continued to fight, battling back within three points with less than a minute remaining. Temple guard Tristen Taylor hit a floater in the lane with 18 seconds left to give the Owls a two-possession lead and Charlotte missed the ensuing shot to seal Temple’s win. 

Temple’s defense was on point, not allowing Charlotte’s offense find a groove until late in the game. The Owls went down 8-3 early in the first quarter when the 49ers made their first three shots, but they held Charlotte scoreless for the next four minutes to get back in the game. Temple grabbed the lead late in the second quarter and never trailed again.

The Owls’ defense smothered Charlotte, helping force 25 turnovers, which turned into 19 points. Charlotte guard Dazia Lawrence entered the game fifth in the conference in scoring but scored just 16 points on 4-10 shooting.

“We played defense today,” Richardson said. “We played team defense, and you can see that on the stat sheet where we turned them over 25 times and had 12 steals.”

Temple found their offensive groove in the second half, shooting 50 percent from the field in the third quarter and opening up a double-digit lead. The Owls shot 43 percent from the field during the game.

Four different players in Cherry and White scored in double figures. Nelson led the way with 14 points and became the second player in Temple history to reach 1,500 points and 500 assists in their career. Guard Tiarra East finished with 12 points and Taylor chipped in 11.

“It feels good,” Nelson said. “I think what I’m most proud of is not only my teammates that I have played with but also I’m proud of myself. I put in the effort, and I put in the work and the countless hours to make the big time shots and the plays. I don’t usually give credit to myself, but I am proud of myself for hitting that milestone.”

Temple forward Ines Piper contributed on both ends of the floor, scoring 11 points while anchoring the defense down low. She also pulled down seven rebounds and had two steals and a block. 

The Owls’ struggle with foul trouble nearly cost them the game. Piper, East and forwards Rayne Tucker and Denise Solis all fouled out in the fourth quarter, and Temple committed 32 total team fouls, leading to 44 free throw attempts for Charlotte. The 49ers scored 10 of their last 13 points at the free-throw line. 

The Owls will hit the road having won three of their last four games and try to build on the win against Southern Methodist (8-10, 2-5 AAC) on Jan. 24. at 8 p.m. 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.