It was supposed to be a women’s college basketball game between Temple and St. Joe’s and the teams were supposed to play as if the Big 5 city series title was on the line.
According to the program, the game was supposed to start at 7 p.m., and, officially, it did. All the players were on the court and the ball was tipped off but no one seemed ready to play.
It wasn’t until 7:30, however, that anyone played like they were in college, as St. Joe’s went on to beat Temple 57-47 in a contest that reached no one’s expectations.
The Hawks went on a 4-0 run to take a 14-6 lead. Then it was time for the Temple players, who were shooting 2-of-17 to that point, to enter Hawk Hill.
The Owls went on an 11-0 run to take a 17-14 lead with two minutes left in the half. The score was only 19-16 at halftime.
“It’s difficult but as long as it’s not 16-4 or 26-4, it’s easy to handle but it’s tough,” said Natalia Isaac of the first ten minutes of the game.
The game was more entertaining in the second half, but it was St. Joe’s that came out on top and won the Big 5 crown. A Temple win would have split the title between the Hawks, the Owls and Villanova.
“To come out Big 5 champs is a great feeling,” said St. Joe’s Angela Zampella. “I think in the first half I was rushing. I the second half I think we were real aggressive but smart.”
Zampella led the Hawks with 19 points including her 11-of-11 free throws.
She hit two free throws with 17:27 left in the half that started a 21-11 St. Joe’s run. Zampella had 12 point during the run.
“I thought we gave 40 minutes of great effort,” said Temple coach Dawn Staley. “We had breakdowns during key stretches of the second half that broke our back.”
Temple went eight minutes without a point in the second half before Isaac hit a layup to cut the score to 41-33, St. Joe’s.
Athena Christoforakis hit two free throws with 3:45 left and then added a field goal to make the score 47-39, Hawks.
Zampella scored six points to close out the game and the title.
The win was revenge for the Hawks who lost to Temple 60-55 on Feb. 2 at the Liacouras Center.
This time around St. Joe’s bigger players had more of an impact. Susan Moran scored 14 points and added 10 rebounds. Irina Krasnoshiok scored 12 points.
Temple was led by Isaac’s 12 and a double-double from Lisa Jakubowicz (10 points, 10 rebounds).
“I though we had Moran in check but you can’t give Zampella the points that Moran’s supposed to get,” Staley said. “You let both them get their points and they win basketball games that way.”
Both teams shot worse than 40 percent from the field. St. Joe’s (14-12, 8-7 A-10) shot 35 percent and Temple (16-9, 9-5) only shot 33 percent.
“We’re not a great shooting team,” Staley said.
It was St. Joe’s 14th Big 5 title, its 11th outright crown. The Owls haven’t won it since their one and only title in 1986.
“Some players were looking forward to getting a championship,” Staley said. “But we can’t get it all in one year. We’re still alive and kicking for the Atlantic 10 championship so that’s what we want to do.”
OH, THE POSSIBILITIES
Temple hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1989, but there’s a chance that might change this year. Even with Monday’s loss to St. Joe’s, Temple is in the hunt for a tournament berth.
The Atlantic-10 has two openings for teams to go to the tournament. One is given to the winner of the A-10 tournament March 2-5 at the Liacouras Center.
Xavier and George Washington are above Temple in the conference standings and if the season were to end today, both would be in the tournament.
Xavier are the defending conference champs and are the favorites to repeat.
Temple split its season series with GW but the two teams could meet again.
For the Owls to make it to the NCAA’s they would have to go to the championship game of the A-10’s. That means beating either GW or Xavier to get there. St. Joe’s could be another tournament opponent for the Owls.
This year, though, the fact that the Liacouras Center hosts the conference tournament could be a real home-court advantage as the Owls actually have a chance to win.
The chance to go to the NCAA tournament hinges on it.
INJURIES PILING UP
A season that started with extensive conditioning has seen its share of injuries lately. Sophomore guard Regan Apo is the latest to be added to the list.
Apo missed Monday’s game with tendinitis in her right knee and is listed as day-to-day. She hasn’t practiced steadily in a while and has worn a knee brace all season.
Christine Cruz continues to miss action with a foot injury. There was speculation that she suffered a stress fracture, but Cruz said that X-rays turned up negative.
Cruz hasn’t played since Jan. 28 against George Washington and is also listed as day-to-day.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
It was a rough week for the Owls, who lost to St. Joe’s and barely beat Fordham, 52-50.
For the second week in a row, however, Natalia Isaac was there making baskets. For the second week in a row she’s the player of the week. Shots she had been making the past few games didn’t fall against St. Joe’s, but she still led the team with 12.
Isaac had a team-high 15 against Fordham.