LOWELL, MA – In the months leading up to the 2010-2011 Atlantic Ten Conference season, the Dayton women’s basketball team was picked to finish second in the conference, and Sunday night the team proved why.
The No. 6 seeded Flyers defeated Temple, 75-67, in the A-10 Championship semifinals to pull out the upset over the No. 2 seeded Owls and send them packing for home. Dayton threw Temple off of its game early and often in the rematch of a game that Temple won at home during the regular season.
“My hat goes off to Dayton. They played a great game and basically beat us in every way possible on the defensive end,” coach Cardoza said. “We didn’t do a good job of executing our offense so they deserved to win.”
Temple shot just 41 percent from the floor in the game, and more importantly, the team could not get anything to fall from behind the arc. One of Temple’s greatest strengths all season has been its three-point shooting, but Sunday night, the Owls shot just 7.7 percent from downtown.
“It was tough,” said senior guard Qwedia Wallace, who was held to 17 points and just one 3-pointer. “Shots weren’t falling but also on the defensive end things just weren’t going our way. Usually, I feed off of my defense so it wasn’t going as well as it usually does.”
Temple scored the first points of the night after receiving a pair of steals from redshirt-junior Shey Peddy and then held that lead for the majority of the first half. With 3:55 left, the Flyers fired back with a couple of clutch jumpers from junior guard Patrice Lalor, who dropped 11 points in the game.
Dayton then extended its lead to 38-32 at the half after receiving a deep three-pointer from junior forward Justine Raterman, who was the team’s second leading scorer with 15 points on the night.
“I think we withstood the first four minutes of the game, and then we were able to take a lead and run stuff against a great defense,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “We were able to score. We missed a lot of shots in Philadelphia during the year, but I thought our defense was critical tonight.”
Dayton came out of halftime on fire, going on an 18-2 run until Temple went on a run of its own around the 10-minute mark. The Owls pulled within 5 points of the Flyers in the final minutes of the game, but it was not enough to overcome Dayton’s 26 points at the free-throw line.
“I knew that we were locked in. I thought our focus was great tonight, and I thought we were really prepared,” Jabir said. “I thought the kids were ready to play. And for us, when we’re really locked in, we shoot free throws well and take advantage of those situations.”
Raterman, Dayton’s leading scorer on the season, went down with a knee injury early in the second half, but senior guard Kristen Daugherty filled in admirably, leading her team with 16 points and four rebounds on the night.
Junior forward Kristen McCarthy posted a game-high 18 points and five rebounds for Temple, and sophomore forward Natasha Thames came off the bench to score 11 for the Owls. Although the team played well in the final minutes, Temple could not overcome an ugly 4-to-15 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“The fact that we only had four assists on 24 shots – that’s just not how we play basketball. That’s a telling tale of what we were like on the offensive end tonight,” Cardoza said. “We gave a valiant effort because we’re always going to continue to fight, but they did everything they were supposed to do. They were hungrier than we were.”
Now eliminated from the conference tournament, the Owls will wait and see if they have received a bid in the NCAA national tournament. Dayton, meanwhile, will move on to face Xavier in the A-10 Championship tomorrow night.
Jeffrey Janiczek can be reached at email@example.com.