Coming off a 19-point setback to Florida last Saturday, the women’s basketball team was looking to swing momentum in its favor Wednesday against Pennsylvania before back-to-back games next week against No. 20 Rutgers and Villanova.
The Owls gained the momentum they were looking for behind 21 points from senior guard Cynthia Jordan and a staunch team defensive effort in a 63-46 trouncing of the visiting Quakers.
“We just have to continue to play hard,” Staley said. “We play hard and things usually come our way. We have to really buy into knowing our personnel and knowing how to play different players, especially with these next two games before the break.”
Staley has gone to the bench often this season, and that held true Wednesday night. Ten Owls saw action before halftime.
The Owls (4-3) defense made the difference in the first half. They held Penn to just 15 points by continuously forcing the Quakers to take bad shots.
Penn shot a dismal 20 percent from the field in the half and didn’t make a field goal in the final seven minutes before halftime. During that stretch the Owls built an 11-point lead.
“We got after them on the defensive end,” Staley said. “One of the keys to getting this win was to not let them attempt three-pointers. And they definitely had no three-point makes. I thought our kids really focused in on that part of the game plan.”
Jordan, who sat out the first five and a half minutes of the second half with a bruised knee, took control of the Owls offense when she returned to the floor.
Upon her re-entry, Jordan dished out an assist to forward Ari Moore and went on to score nine of the Owls’ next 11 points.
“When I went out we built our biggest lead during that time,” said Jordan, who also contributed five assists and seven rebounds. “I just came in and provided what [my teammates] already did. I finished up the ground work they already laid.”
Jordan received plenty of help from fellow starters Kamesha Hairston and Moore, who each chipped in 13 points.
Temple built a lead as large as 26 points and continued its defensive intensity from the first half. Junior center Candice Dupree had three emphatic blocked shots and the Owls held Quakers leading scorer Jennifer Fleischer to just four points.
“We tried to stop her from getting the ball down low,” Staley said of the Owls’ defensive strategy on the Penn center. “We tried to push her up the block a bit, limit her touches. We did a good job of not allowing her the good real estate on the block.”
Despite the win, the Owls continued their habit of poor ball control. With 20 turnovers against Penn, the Owls increased their turnover total to 144 in seven games, an average of 20.5 per game. They have registered more turnovers than their opponent in every game this season but one.
Another area in which the Owls have struggled is at the free throw line. They shot just 56 percent from the line against Penn to move their average to 61 percent for the year.
“It’s our starters that are turning the ball over,” said Staley. “We’ve been fighting with that all year and these are the things that have cost us in some big basketball games. We will take care of the ball and we’ll take care of the free throw part of it. We just have to focus on that.”
Taking care of the ball is something the Owls will need to do Monday against a talented Rutgers squad. The Scarlet Knights are 5-1, with their only loss coming to Old Dominion.
The Knights come into North Philly after an emotional win over Princeton on Wednesday. Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer picked up her 700th career victory.
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.