Following the women’s basketball team’s win over Penn last Tuesday, coach Dawn Staley said the Owls needed more time to give several of her inexperienced players minutes in key roles.
Sunday’s game against Hampton gave the Owls that chance.
Sparked by a 54-point second half, the Owls rolled to an 81-38 rout of the Pirates. It was the Owls’ largest margin of victory since they walloped Maryland-Eastern Shore by 46 points on Dec. 30, 2001.
The No. 21 Owls (5-0) received strong performances from both their seasoned veterans and their inexperienced starters. Senior center Candice Dupree and junior forward Kamesha Hairston led the scoring, with 20 points and 16 points, respectively. They each had five rebounds.
Meanwhile, sophomore reserve Nicole Pittman led the team with five blocks, a new career high. She also tied freshman forward Shenita Landry and senior guard Jennifer Owens for the team lead with six rebounds.
At Penn, the Owls struggled, leading by only four points at halftime. Dupree was held to two points in the first 20 minutes. They recovered to down the Quakers, 72-53, despite a dearth of experience, Staley said.
“Candice [Dupree] and Kamesha [Hairston] are really the only two who have game experience under their belts,” Staley said. “Some games are going to look like that. It’s going to look a lot different than it did last year.”
Only Dupree and Hairston start at the positions they started last season. Owens has moved from shooting guard to point guard. Senior guard Khadija Bowens is starting for the first time in three seasons, and sophomore forward Lady Comfort has gotten her first crack at the starting five.
Staley said she anticipates New Year’s Day, the date New Mexico transfer Fatima Maddox becomes eligible. Staley said the experience Maddox brings to the team will be a huge lift.
“We’re going to be a different basketball team when she comes,” Staley said. “If you’re scouting us for these first nine games, … we’re going to be a different basketball team when she gets to play.”
Of the season’s new starters, Bowens is the most experienced. She started in all 11 games she played three seasons ago, but missed the 2003-04 season per NCAA guidelines.
She returned last season to average 5.3 points per game off the bench, earning the team’s sixth woman award.
Bowens’ impressive streak continued at Hampton, as she led the Owls with seven assists and scored eight points. She has averaged 11.4 points over the Owls’ first five games, ranking her third on the team. Bowens’ 21 points against Penn left her one point shy of a career high.
“Before the game, Coach was telling me I wasn’t being aggressive enough, so I just took that and said, ‘Well, I’m going to take advantage and just try to go hard,'” Bowens said of her play at Penn.
The Owls entered the game first in the Atlantic Ten Conference in scoring margin (plus-13.2), field goal percentage (.324) and blocks (6). They entered second in scoring defense (50.2). … Senior guards Gwen Browne (three) and Stephanie Hicks (two) each tied career best in rebounds. Sophomore guard Ashley Morris’ three steals was a career best. … Against Hampton, the Owls’ defense had a big day, totaling 12 blocks and 12 steals. The 12 blocks were the most they’ve had since a Dec. 13, 2003, overtime win over Kentucky. The Owls are averaging 7.3 blocks per game, up from the 4.4 they averaged last season.
The Owls take on Maryland-Eastern Shore tonight. Dupree totaled 27 points in just 24 minutes to lift the Owls to a 77-53 victory over the Hawks last season. Dupree needs six field goals to move into fifth place on Temple’s all-time list.
Guard Toni Kennedy leads the Hawks (1-1) in scoring (16 points per game) while guard/forward Jamila Griffith paces them in rebounds, and shares the team lead in assists and steals.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com. Assistant sports editor Christopher A. Vito contributed to this report.