As Temple pulled up to a chain link fence at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner, Louisiana, players stepped off the bus and walked toward a Signature Flight Support plane.
Before getting on the plane, Khadijah Berger received a phone call from her mother, Jurea Berger, congratulating the sophomore guard on the team’s 72-54 victory against Tulane.
“She called me like 15 minutes before we got on the plane and wouldn’t even let me get on the plane,” Berger said. “Our family members were calling us and be like, ‘Oh my god, you guys played so good. If you play like this all the time, nobody could stop you.’”
The Green Wave came into last Tuesday’s game 15-5 and 6-2 in the American Athletic Conference. Tulane had lost once this season at Devlin Fieldhouse before falling to the Owls.
“It is the biggest win of the season,” Atkinson said. “We were all family and were hungry, and we all wanted to eat together.”
In early November 2015, the Owls set their goal to appear in the Division I Women’s College Basketball Tournament in March.
After defeating the Green Wave, Temple snapped a two-game losing streak to Connecticut, ranked No.1 in the AP Top 25 poll, and the University of Pennsylvania.
With nine regular season games left, Temple—which has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2001—is third in The American standings behind No. 20 South Florida and Connecticut.
“I feel we have a really good chance of making the tournament,” Berger said. “Towards the end of the season last year, we really picked it up and came together. We mapped out what we had to do to accomplish our goals and I think we are doing that now and are focusing on all the little things and have a good chance of making the tournament.”
No. 20 South Florida will travel to the Liacouras Center on Feb.6. The Owls will travel to Tampa, Florida for a Feb. 27 game against the Bulls in their second to last contest of the regular season.
“South Florida just lost to Memphis, so our conference is all messed up now, so I think we are still in a pretty good position,” sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson said. “We still have opportunities to play against Connecticut, even if we play it close it can get us in a good position.”
Temple lost to UConn on the road 104-49 on Jan. 16 and will host the Huskies on Feb. 14 at McGonigle Hall.
Temple is 7-2 in conference play, with losses to Southern Methodist and UConn. At this point last season, Temple sat at 6-3 in The American, eventually missing out on the NCAA Tournament and earning an appearance in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
“The team is very unpredictable, and that’s why Tulane was such an amazing win,” junior forward Ruth Sherrill said. “Our standard for our last 10 games will be up to that par or better.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.