CINCINNATI – All five of Temple’s starters sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the bench, joking, laughing and cheering on their teammates in garbage time.
The starters had ample opportunities to joke, laugh and cheer because there was plenty of garbage time.
The Owls routed St. Bonaventure, the No. 10 seed, 84-60, in the Atlantic Ten Tournament quarterfinals Saturday at the Cintas Center.
The No. 2-seeded Owls (24-6, 13-1 A-10) will take on No. 3 Xavier (24-7, 11-3) in the A-10 semifinals Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
The Bonnies (16-15, 5-9) were burned by the Owls’ seniors, Fatima Maddox and Kamesha Hairston.
Hairston scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Maddox scored 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
“We win with them,” coach Dawn Staley said of the two seniors. “We’re certainly not going to hang our hats on a freshman or a sophomore or anybody that’s younger than the two seniors. They know what it’s about. They’ve been here, they want to win, they want to go out on a great note and they are certainly leading by example.”
Hairston scored the first seven points of the game for the Owls. She and Maddox scored 25 points on 11-of-20 shooting in the first half.
“This is tournament time,” Hairston said. “Everything else doesn’t matter anymore … You have to be ready to play and that’s my mindset. I’m ready to play.”
The Owls showed they were ready to play from the opening tip.
After upsetting Massachusetts, the No. 7 seed, 63-60, in the first round Friday, St. Bonaventure looked sluggish and a step slower compared to Temple.
The Owls raced out to an early advantage after allowing Bonnies junior Priscilla Edwards to hit the first shot of the game. It would be the Bonnies only lead of the game.
Temple embarked on a 14-0 run which was capped off by a fast break layup by Maddox at the 15:56 mark.
About nine minutes later, Maddox nailed a jumper to put Temple up, 30-14. The Owls would extend their lead to as much as 23 points and enter halftime with a 41-21 advantage.
The Bonnies would trail by double-digits for the remainder of the contest.
Maddox, who hit her first three shots of the game, finished the first half with 10 points.
“I’ve feel like I have the green light a little more lately,” Maddox said. “So I figured why not go out and see what I can make happen on the offensive end as well as the defensive end.”
On the defensive end, the Owls made it tough for the Bonnies to find high-percentage shots.
Temple blocked 11 shots and held the Bonnies to 37 percent shooting. Junior Lady Comfort led the block party with four rejections, while freshman Jasmine Stone turned away three shots.
Stone came into the game earlier than usual after Comfort picked up her first foul with 19:12 remaining in the first half. The freshman scored six points and pulled down six rebounds.
“Jasmine, she’s an energy person,” Maddox said. “When she comes in, obviously, everyone gets lifted up a little more.”
The Owls’ defensive intensity was higher throughout the game. Temple scored 33 points off of turnovers.
The Bonnies turned the ball over 21 times.
“Defense is contagious just as much as offense is,” Staley said. “I thought our players came out with a certain level of energy on the defensive end. We created some offense from it, we got some easy buckets and then jump shots started falling.”
Hairston said she was encouraged by the team’s effort on the defensive side.
“I’m a believer that defense wins championships,” Hairston said. “That’s how you have to come [out]… You can’t think about offense, you’ve got to be ready defensively and I think we were ready today.
“I’m happy,” Hairston continued. “This looks promising to me, honestly.”
NO. 3 XAVIER 64, NO. 11 SAINT LOUIS 63
After trailing for the majority of the game, Xavier snuck by Saint Louis, 64-63.
The Musketeers (24-7, 11-3) fell behind by 12 points late in the first half but rallied to take a 54-53 lead after sophomore Jeri Taylor sunk two free throws with 6:07 remaining in the second stanza.
The Musketeers led 64-63, when senior Miranda Green missed two free throws, giving the Billikens (13-17, 4-10) a chance to win with 37 seconds left.
On the Billikens’ final possession, freshman Katie Paganelli missed a layup and a jumper, but gathered her own rebound on both shot attempts. With five seconds left, Paganelli kicked the ball out to her teammate, but the Billikens failed to get a shot up before the final buzzer.
Freshman Amber Harris led the Musketeers with 24 points.
Xavier will play Temple in the A-10 semifinal Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
“They’re an excellent team,” coach Kevin McGuff said about Temple. “They played extremely well down the stretch. They’re physical, they’re great defensively and tenacious on the boards. We’re going to have to have a whole lot better effort on the glass to win the game tomorrow.”
Saint Louis outrebounded Xavier, 49-30.
Temple coach Dawn Staley said she is not concerned about the home court advantage Xavier will have when the two teams meet in the semifinal Sunday.
“A lot of people brag about where the A-10 tournament should be played,” Staley said. “It should be played in a gym. Whether its here, whether it’s in Philadelphia, you’ve got to win it. You’ve got to play tough competition and there is no cakewalk because you’re hosting. There [would be] no cakewalk if we were in Philadelphia.”
“For us, we just take it one game at a time,” she said. “Hopefully, that will work in our favor.”
BIG TOURNEY PREDICTIONS
With 24 wins under its belt and an exemplary 13-1 conference record, all indications point to Temple making its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
ESPN columnist Charlie Creme projects the Owls as a No. 7 seed in the Dallas region on his women’s bracketology page on ESPN.com
Jerry P. Palm of CollegeRPI.com has Temple pegged as a No. 8 seed in the Dallas region.
Both prognosticators predict that George Washington and Xavier will also represent the A-10 alongside Temple.
Creme has George Washington as a No. 3 seed in the Dayton region and Xavier as a No. 9 seed in the Fresno region.
Palm projects that George Washington will receive a No. 2 seed in the Greensboro region and Xavier will be placed in the Dayton region as a No. 9 seed.
OTHER QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
NO.1 GEORGE WASHINGTON 61, NO. 9 DAYTON 45
Sophomore Jessica Adair scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the first half to lead the George Washington, the No. 9-ranked team in the nation, past Dayton, 61-45, in the quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament.
The Colonials (26-2, 14-0) trailed the Flyers (12-19, 6-8), 19-18, with 8:16 remaining in the opening stanza before embarking on a 13-3 run to take a 31-21 lead into the intermission.
George Washington went on a 10-0 run to open the second half, establishing a 41-21 advantage by the 16:43 mark. They maintained a comfortable lead throughout the remainder of the contest.
NO. 5 ST. JOSEPH’S 76, NO. 4 CHARLOTTE 64
Senior guards Ayahna Cornish and Whitney Ffrench set the nets on fire in Saint Joseph’s 76-64 win over Charlotte.
Cornish led the Hawks (18-12, 8-6) with 26 points while Ffrench chipped in with 15. The two guards shot a combined 15-of-29 from the field.
The Hawks grabbed their first lead of the game after Timisha Gomez hit a three-pointer with 13:19 remaining in the second half. The Hawks scored 48 points on the 49ers (18-12, 9-5) in the second half.
St. Joseph’s will play George Washington, the No. 9-ranked team in the nation, in the A-10 semifinal Sunday at noon.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at Tyson@temple.edu.