This is what seniors are supposed to do.
After trailing for much of the game, and by six points with two minutes, 43 seconds to go, Ashley Morris simply took things into her own hands.
Morris scored the next eight points of the contest, including two three-pointers, to give the Owls a hard-fought 63-60 win over Saint Joseph’s at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse Wednesday.
The stand-out guard from Central High School finished with a team-high 20 points, as she also chipped in six assists while playing in over 39 minutes of action. Three other Owls also scored in double figures, as junior forward Shanea Cotton tallied 16 points, sophomore guard LaKeisha Eaddy added 15 points and senior center Lady Comfort hit for 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
After the game, Temple (16-11, 9-2 Atlantic Ten Conference) coach Dawn Staley had nothing but praise for the 5-foot-5 local product.
“Ashley thrives at situations like that,” Staley said. “At the timeout I told her, these are the times that you were made for. We try to use her as a decoy late in the basketball game, but that didn’t work. So we just decided to put the ball in her hands and let her do her thing. And she certainly did that.”
Seventeen of Morris’ 20 points came in the second half, as she went on an absolute rampage in the final stretches of the game to keep the Owls firmly on the “in” side of the NCAA Tournament at-large discussion. And as usual, she was very humble when talking about the way she played.
“I was just trying to step up when my team needs me the most,” Morris said. “They look to me to come up with big plays, so that’s just what I try to do for them. I’m never going to back down.”
Perhaps she gets her humbleness from her coach, who became Temple’s all-time leader in women’s basketball coaching wins with the victory over St. Joe’s (14-12, 6-5). Staley’s career record now stands at 167-78. As expected, Staley downplayed the achievement. After a long, thoughtful pause, she simply tried to change the subject.
“The record? I want to break the record in getting as many Atlantic 10 Championships as possible,” she said. “It’s a record.”
But for her players, this was certainly something they were proud to have a hand in.
“It’s big, that’s our coach, we love her,” Morris said. “We want her to break every record there is. She’s basketball for women, all over the country. Whatever record she breaks, it feels good for us because we love our coach.”
For Staley, she would rather talk about the way her team played rather than her own personal accomplishments. And even though the Owls are all but locked into a top seed in the A-10, Staley still wasn’t all smiles.
“We couldn’t have won this game on Sunday,” she said. “If we play Saint Joseph’s right out of the break, I don’t think we win. But when you get your feet wet a little bit, and you get some focus in, [you] put yourself in a position to win the game.”
The Owls return to action on Saturday against winless Fordham. It’s the first game of a doubleheader, as the men’s basketball team will also play the Rams immediately after the game.
This is just the second time this season that the Owls have won a game where they trailed at the half…The Owls were un-characteristically poor from the foul-line, finishing 12 for 21…The Temple fans in attendance held up signs that read “167” after the game, in honor of Staley.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.