After junior guard Tarriyonna Gary’s missed jump shot, sophomore forward Caranda Perea grabbed the offensive rebound and made a putback layup as time expired in the third quarter, tying the game at 43 heading into the fourth.
Temple Women’s Basketball (9-11, 4-4 American Athletic Conference) won their second consecutive game and returned to a .500 conference record after defeating the University of Central Florida (10-9, 1-6 American Athletic Conference) 63-56 on Saturday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. While the Owls did not have the most efficient shooting day, a stout defense that forced 22 turnovers made up for their offensive struggles.
“It was a battle today, it was a very physical game,” said head coach Diane Richardson. “But we withstood the pressure and came away with the win and played some great team basketball.”
The victory came without sophomore guards Jasha Clinton and Aniya Gourdine, who Richardson suspended and eventually dismissed from the team for violation of team rules.
“Well, they are no longer part of the team,” Richardson said. “I can’t comment on kids that are not part of this team.”
Senior guard Aleah Nelson continued her scoring success from all around the court, finishing 8-of-22 from the floor, and 10-of-10 from the charity stripe, racking up 28 points. She also found her teammates, who converted their shot opportunities, giving Nelson three assists.
Nelson and sophomore guard Tiarra East have spent more minutes on the floor due to the team’s thin bench following the dismissal of Clinton and Gourdine.
“They have prepared me, you know, I look over at the bench and they tell me I am not tired,” Nelson said. “I am not, it’s mentally, I tell myself I am good and push through it and just do whatever it takes.”
The Owls felt the effects of having just eight available players, as they struggled to find the bottom of the net from the get-go. The team shot just 3-of-18 from the floor in the first quarter. On defense, Temple’s six offensive rebounds were not enough, as they trailed 12-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Nelson, who hit consecutive threes in the second quarter that jump started an 8-0 scoring run, helped push an uptempo offense. The offensive success translated to defense as the Owls’ aggressiveness and willingness to dive for loose balls and jump UCF’s passing lanes resulted in nine forced turnovers. Despite this, the teams entered halftime tied at 28.
Both teams exchanged baskets to open up the second half and found offensive success by driving to the basket. Temple eventually slowed down their offense, allowing them to find open shooters that connected on three-point opportunities.
“We’re still the equal opportunity offense, so we’re going to continue to do that,” Richardson said. “This is a new situation where some of them are playing and not used to the minutes so we are going to work on their confidence in them scoring as well.”
The win puts the Owls in sixth place in the American Athletic Conference standings and just one position shy of earning a first round bye in the conference tournament in March. With their at-large chances out the window, Temple’s only chance at making the NCAA tournament will be winning the conference tournament.
Temple will look to continue building their conference resume when they welcome Wichita State University (13-8, 3-5 American Athletic Conference) to The Liacouras Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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