Sunday’s game against Dayton marked the No. 17 women’s basketball team’s last home game of the regular season. But if things fall the Owls’ way, they could play another game this season on the familiar hardwood of the Liacouras Center.
For the second consecutive year, Temple hosts NCAA Tournament action. Last season, the Owls bowed to Texas Christian here in the West Regional round. This season, the Owls are ranked for the first time in the program’s history, and will probably earn a higher seed that would pave the way for another home game in the NCAA Tournament, with a Final Four birth on the line.
If the Owls can win their final two regular season games and win next month’s Atlantic Ten Tournament, they may very well earn another home date.
“For us, we feel like that is realistic,” coach Dawn Staley said. “We honored our seniors [Sunday], keeping in mind that there is a realistic possibility that we could be playing back here.
“And that is what we want to keep the doors open for. It’s senior night and this was their last opportunity to play here against an A-10 opponent. But certainly we have our eyes on the bigger prize.”
For the Owls to play in front of their home crowd during March Madness, they would have to gain a berth in the East Region bracket and then win two tournament games.
That is a possibility, considering the season they have had.
And should the Owls return to the Liacouras Center, it could be a fitting way to conclude a history-making season.
The Dayton win moved the Owls’ 2004-05 record to 22-3. That win total matches the 1988-89 squad’s school record for most wins in a season. Barring a major meltdown, the Owls should break that record by season’s end.
Sunday was also the Owls’ 19th straight victory. The program’s previous longest winning streak was 12 straight, set in 1921. This year’s team broke that record Jan. 27, when it defeated George Washington.
Junior center Candice Dupree recently etched her name in the women’s basketball record book as well. Last Thursday against St. Bonaventure, Dupree became the 14th player in Temple history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
If the Owls complete their A-10 schedule undefeated, and go on to win the A-10 tournament, Staley will become just the second women’s basketball coach at Temple to win 100 career games.
“I don’t know how to define this season,” said Staley. “We’re just really focusing on the game that we have to play. We never look ahead and we don’t look back. I think we’ve accomplished a great deal this season. But for us, we’re trying to do the unthinkable, the unbelievable.”
The unthinkable would be a trip to Indianapolis for the NCAA Women’s Final Four.
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.