Keys to Temple’s AAC semifinals matchup against Rice

Temple Women’s Basketball survived triple overtime against Tulane, but can the squad sustain its momentum in the semifinals? Here’s everything you need to know.

Coach Richardson looks to secure Temple's second postseason win in the Owls' next game against Rice. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

FORT WORTH, TX Diane Richardson breathed a sigh of relief Monday night as she sat down to address the media. Her Temple Women’s Basketball team had just beaten Tulane in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament in the first triple-overtime game in the event’s history, and it seemed like she couldn’t be happier.

“I thought it was a very hard-fought game,” said Temple’s head coach. “Temple prevailed, and our defense did it. We went into three overtimes, but we never gave up,we kept pushing. I’m pleased that we got the win and we’re gonna move on.”

The Owls did not play great basketball against the Green Wave, but they found ways to stay alive, clinching the victory after a pair of free throws from guard Tristen Taylor. Three Owls finished in double-figures, and guard Tiarra East led the way with 22 points.

They now have just two games remaining on their quest to earn the program’s first conference championship since 2006, and they will next face 10th-place Rice in the semifinals. Here’s everything you need to know before the two teams tip off at 9 p.m.


Temple didn’t exactly look rusty against Tulane, but the Owls did not play up to their usual standard. They shot just 34 percent and missed seven free throws, including some that could’ve ended the game, and had more than 15 turnovers for just the second time in their last nine games.

Yet, they found ways to win thanks to their hustle. Temple grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and contributed to 21 Tulane turnovers. The team more than doubled the Green Wave’s number of steals, and Temple’s bench outscored Tulane’s 18-2.

When it mattered most, Temple stepped up and got stops thanks to the combined effort of players like East, Taylor and center Rayne Tucker. Temple’s chemistry was on full display in Dickies Arena and played a significant role in the program’s first win in either the men’s or women’s tournament in four years.

“We have battled all year,” Richardson said. “The reason why we’re here today is because they all play together; they play for each other. That’s what’s been different for us this year — we played for each other. The culture is great. They play for themselves, and they play for Temple University.”

Despite their struggles, Temple found ways to win when it mattered. Nothing is more important than winning in March, and the team has proven they know what it takes.

Rice upset North Texas in a close 61-59 matchup at Dickies Arena. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS


On the other hand, Rice has found a winning formula in Fort Worth as well. 

They entered the postseason with five straight losses, including back-to-back nine-point losses to Temple on Feb. 25 and North Texas a week later. They quickly shifted their momentum in the postseason with a blowout win against UAB in the second round of the tournament and a gutsy two-point victory against North Texas in the quarterfinals.

Rice held North Texas, the AAC’s highest-scoring offense, to just 59 points and helped force 19 Mean Green turnovers. Guard Destiny Jackson filled up Rice’s box score with an impressive 16 points, six rebounds, six assists and seven steals, and the entire team seemed to fill their roles well.

Jackson had 13 points against Temple a few weeks ago and is a serious scoring threat with the ball in her hands. Forward Malia Fisher led Rice with 24 points and eight rebounds in that game, and she will be a challenge for Temple’s frontcourt once again.

However, Temple cruised to a somewhat easy road win behind guard Tarriyonna Gary’s 20 points and four other contributions of double-digit points. Temple shot nearly 60 percent from three, making six more three-pointers than its opponent before the final whistle.

Temple could get hot like that again, but they will most likely need to rely on strong defense from tip off to the final whistle. East has become the focal point of the offense recently, but Temple is at its best when its depth combines to create offense rather than when a few players score the bulk of the team’s points.

Rice, on the other hand, has the defensive tools to shut down Temple in the half court, as it showed against North Texas. The team could slow Temple by controlling the pace of play and forcing Temple to operate in the half court, which they struggled doing against Tulane.

These two teams are primed for a battle fitting of the semifinals. Whoever wins this matchup will be in prime position to win the title against either East Carolina or UTSA on March 13.


Declan Landis, Sports Editor: “Temple showed it had grit and tenacity with its win against Tulane. The team struggled on offense but found ways to win despite not shooting the ball well. 

However, they need to find ways to impose their will on Rice because Rice has proven it can take advantage of an opponent’s struggles. Temple needs to focus on stopping Rice and utilizing its depth to continue an onslaught of offense instead of slowing down and taking its players out of their groove. If Temple can pull that off, they will be on to the finals.”

Temple wins 62-57.

Johnny Zawislak, Assistant Sports Editor: “Temple found a way to win despite not having its best stuff against Tulane. Temple’s offense looked extremely stagnant in the half-court, as they struggled to move off-ball.

Temple needs to figure out its offensive struggles against Rice. In previous games, Rice has proven its offense can get hot and pull away. If Temple can have a similar defensive performance and figure out the offensive struggles, they’ll be in the championship.”

Temple wins 66-59.

Ryan Mack, Assistant Sports Editor: “I was worried about Temple having a slow start against a Tulane team that had momentum on their side. I think that if they use the same defensive effort they had against the Green Wave in their matchup against Rice, they will be playing on Wednesday.”

Temple wins 65-58.

Jaison Nieves, Sports Social Media Manager: “Temple picked up a gutsy win but the offense looked slow at times. As I said before, the Tulane game will come down to the Owls’ effort and energy.

Temple needs to continue to play with their same effort and find ways to consistently score on offense. Regardless of if the offense does struggle, this team is on a mission and has found a formula to win games based on defense alone.”

Temple wins 72- 62. 

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