The loss on Sunday prevented the team from finishing perfect in A-10 play.
When junior guard Shey Peddy of the women’s basketball team was watching film of No. 6 Xavier’s powerful redshirt-senior Amber Harris and senior center Ta’Shia Phillips all week, she said she didn’t think they looked as big as she would later find in Sunday night’s game.
“This was my first time playing against them, and they were definitely bigger than they looked on film,” Peddy said. “There was nothing we could do but try. I was just praying that they would miss, and we could get the rebound.”
At 6-foot-5-inches and 6-foot-6-inches, respectively, Harris and Phillips were unstoppable at the Liacouras Center, snapping Temple’s 14-game winning streak and hopes of winning an Atlantic Ten Conference regular season title. Harris and Phillips both posted double doubles in the 73-66 win over the Owls, combining for 44 points and 27 rebounds on the night.
“Their two post-players were just so difficult to defend. We know that we can’t guard them one-on-one, so we were trying to double-team them,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I thought our effort was great. They’re a very difficult team to match up against, but I definitely thought that we fought to the very end.”
Sophomore center Victoria Macauley won the opening tipoff over Harris, and the Owls jumped out to a 15-5 lead to start the game. Xavier then went on a 6-0 run and pulled within one point before receiving back-to-back three-pointers from sophomore guard Katie Rutan with 7:45 left in the half.
Xavier then quickly began to establish its dominance inside with Phillips and grabbed a 35-32 lead over Temple at the break, a lead the Musketeers would not lose for the rest of the night.
“We got off to a really good start, but they didn’t quit and came right back at us with their own little run,” Cardoza said. “We can’t allow ourselves to make crucial mistakes and can’t allow them to get so deep in the paint. They’re scoring easily when the double-team can’t get there.”
Temple came out strong in the second half, receiving outstanding perimeter play from Peddy and senior guard Qwedia Wallace, who scored 24 and 22 points, respectively.
Junior forward Kristen McCarthy also posted a double-double for the Owls by adding 11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Even with its backcourt duo taking care of business on the perimeter, Temple could not overcome the mismatch inside with Harris and Phillips.
“Their perimeter game is terrific, and I knew that would be a real challenge for us,” Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said. “They’re just really hard to guard because they’re so quick, athletic and aggressive off the dribble. They create problems, but down the stretch, Ta’Shia and Amber were able to alter some of their shots around the basket.”
Temple fell behind by as many as 10 points in the second half before Peddy swiped two of her game-high six steals and scored back-to-back layups, pulling the Owls within eight. Temple continued to battle through the final minute, but it was not enough to get the Owls the win.
With 20 seconds remaining, Wallace drained her 155th career trey, which made her Temple’s all-time career leader from behind the arc.
“It’s great, but I can’t really reflect on it because of the loss. I’m sure I’ll think about it later,” Wallace said. “This was the moment for us. We were only focused on this game. We were just focused on winning tonight. Because we didn’t get it, it hurts, but now we just have to go out and give our best effort to get back to the same point in the conference tournament.”
With both Temple and Xavier entering Sunday night as the only two undefeated teams in A-10 conference play, the Owls now become the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament next weekend because of its loss to the Musketeers.
“We let this opportunity slip away from us,” Cardoza said. “If we’re both fortunate enough to get to back to that point next week, we hopefully won’t make the same mistakes that we made today, and we’ll give that same fight that we had for the last four minutes of the game for all 40 minutes.”
Jeffrey Janiczek can be reached at email@example.com.