The women’s basketball team shot just 25 percent from the field as they lost to Xavier, 47-42, in the Atlantic Ten Conference Championship game Monday evening at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on the campus of Saint Joseph’s University.
Senior guard Ashley Morris had a disastrous night shooting the ball, finishing a paltry 4-for-20 in the contest. She also turned the ball over eight times, finishing with 12 points and four assists. Senior center Lady Comfort added only five points, turned the ball over four times, in addition to being physically dominated down low by Xavier’s tag team of freshman center Ta’Shia Phillips and sophomore forward Amber Harris.
Even though Staley blamed her team’s poor shooting on rushed shots and playing too out of control, she actually went as far as to praise them after the game, saying the better team didn’t come out victorious.
And this was coming from a coach who repeatedly got on her team— following wins— during the regular season.
“I told them that the best team and the hardest working team didn’t win this game tonight,” Staley said. “They didn’t. The team that couldn’t score lost the basketball game … Offensively, we couldn’t get it going.”
And along with Morris and Comfort’s poor performances, the Owls’ complementary players also had severe off nights. Freshman guard Lindsay Kimmel missed seven of her eight three-point attempts, sophomore guard LaKeisha Eaddy missed all six of her shots and sophomore forward Jasmine Stone was just 1-for-5 off the bench.
After the game, a distraught and dejected Morris took full responsibility for the team’s untimely offensive performance.
“We just struggled, I struggled,” she said. “I’m the head of this monster and when I struggle, nothing goes good for this team. Me struggling offensively makes everybody else struggle, so I take full responsibility for that part of the game.”
It wasn’t all Morris’ fault, though.
Comfort was also well-off her game, finishing 2-for-8 from the field and picking up four fouls in just 23 minutes of action. The play of Harris and Phillips, two taller and more athletic players, certainly had something to do that.
“[Harris and Phillips] putting a body on me [caused my struggles], but for the most part, I think I was just trying to force it so much,” Comfort said. “[I] just wanted to make the easy shot and I kind of made it hard for myself. So just missing real easy buckets made it kind of hard.”
But despite the Owls’ offensive woes, they still had a chance to win the game or force overtime in the final minute.
Down by three with 25 seconds to go, Morris had the ball in hand and a play designed for her to tie the game. But while receiving a pass from Comfort, Morris had the ball stolen by Xavier’s junior guard Jerri Tyalor, who then sunk two foul shots to seal the game.
The fact that the Owls’ had a chance to win the game was because of their defense, as Staley’s squad forced 20 Musketeer turnovers and held them to 34 percent shooting.
“Defensively, I’m very proud,” Staley said. “47 points? You hold somebody to 47 points, you’re supposed to end up winning the game. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
But now, the Owls must wait until Selection Monday to see if they’ll get one of the 33 at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. Most projections do put the Owls’ in the field, but that still didn’t stop Staley from making a case for her team.
“We’ve done everything the committee wants,” she said. “They want you to play a tough schedule, they want you to beat some Top 25 teams, they want you to play well at the end of the season, they want you to get to your conference championship. We did all of those things, we did all of those things. And probably a little bit more.”
And for Comfort, the senior center just wants one more shot in the Big Dance.
“[We] just want another chance, want another opportunity to play,” she said. “Show everyone else [that] we can win.”
The Owls are now 4-1 in A-10 title games under Staley … Xavier won their second straight A-10 title and received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament … The Temple men’s basketball team was in attendance, sitting behind the Owls bench … Temple will find out officially if they are in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Monday, which will be broadcast March 17 at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also read: “Seniors can’t help Owls win A-10 title”