Extending a win streak to 16 games would be enough to please many coaches, but Dawn Staley wasn’t happy after the Owls’ victory over Saint Joseph’s last night.
The No. 20 women’s basketball team defeated the Hawks, 68-49, in a sloppy, turnover-ridden game. Junior center Candice Dupree scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. It was her Atlantic Ten Conference-leading 10th double-double of the season.
Despite having three other players score in double figures, Staley wasn’t satisfied.
“I don’t think we played well at all tonight,” she said. “Obviously, we played well enough to get the win. But we need to stay focused for all 40 minutes.”
Staley said she was disappointed because the Owls (19-3, 11-0) turned over the ball 19 times. They also committed 17 personal fouls and were outrebounded by a small St. Joe’s lineup.
Though Staley said the team played careless, she added that the Owls’ defense kept them in the game. It was the seventh time this season the Owls held their opponent to 50 points or fewer. They lead the A-10 in points allowed per game.
“We’ve been known to keep teams around that margin [of 50],” Staley said. “We increase our chances of winning games. The defense is what we key on. It’s what we’ve always keyed on.”
During the final minutes of the first half, sophomore forward Kamesha Hairston appeared visibly sick. She was yanked from the lineup after scoring just one point; Staley said she pulled Hairston due to foul trouble. Hairston averaged 24.5 points in her previous two outings, pacing the Owls in both games.
With or without Hairston, the first half was ugly. The teams combined for six turnovers over a two-minute stretch, and the Owls capitalized on the miscues more effectively than did the Hawks. The Owls scored 12 points off turnovers in the first-half points and headed into halftime with a 10-point lead.
Dupree said she was surprised at how well the Hawks rebounded in the first half.
“They went [after the ball] really aggressively,” said Dupree, who had 11 of the Owls’ 18 defensive rebounds. “I just had to go up and get it. The coaches are always telling me I’m not aggressive enough. They want me to get more rebounds.”
The Owls broke the game open in the final 20 minutes. Their biggest lead was 24 points, following a 9-1 run with 5:16 remaining.
With last night’s win, the Owls earn a first-round bye in the A-10 Tournament. They also clinched a share of the East Division title. Staley said her team cannot afford to look past any of their remaining opponents, despite their placement for the postseason.
“We have a huge bull’s-eye on us, and it’s not just because we’re in the top 25,” Staley said. “It’s because teams are fighting for that second bye. They’re going to bring their A-game against us.”
The last time the Owls and Hawks met was March 8, 2004, in last season’s A-10 Championship Game at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, the Hawks’ home floor. The Owls came away with a 53-48 victory to clinch the second conference title in school history.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.