Owls fly high after third consecutive win

Temple women’s basketball beat Tulsa and Houston on the road.

Junior forward Mia Davis dribbles the ball down the court during the Owls' game against Villanova at McGonigle Hall on Dec. 10. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University women’s basketball (9-6, 2-1 The American Athletic Conference) won both of their matches this week, beating Tulsa and Houston on the road.

Temple needed overtime to slip past Tulsa (5-9, 0-1 The AAC) on Saturday, winning 74-65 at the Reynolds Center in Oklahoma. The Owls outscored Tulsa 14-5 in the overtime period to clinch the victory. 

Sophomore guard Marissa Mackins finished with 25 points on 7-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-15 on three-point attempts. Mackins led the team in points and has recorded 53 points in her previous two games. She set season-high totals in minutes and free throws, just one game after she set career highs in points, three-pointers made and rebounds against the Explorers. 

“Marissa was being especially aggressive,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “She’s really coming into her own as a player, both as a shooter and as a playmaker. She was able to get a critical and-one at the end of the game to help us come back and force OT.”

Temple and Tulsa went back and forth with the lead for almost the entire game. There were 16 lead changes and the largest lead by either team in regulation was just nine points. Temple held a seven-point lead with six minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and a five-point lead with just three minutes and 55 seconds remaining. Tulsa, however, erased both leads. Tulsa senior guard Alexis Gaulden converted a layup with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 60 and send the game into overtime. 

“We weren’t disappointed with heading into OT,” Cardoza said. “We knew we had to buckle down and finish it off. The girls knew they had to communicate better in overtime and they played really well together.”

Temple also saw the return of junior forward and captain Mia Davis, who sat out against La Salle due to injury. Davis scored 19 points and added 13 rebounds in 42 minutes. 

Graduate forward Lena Niang had a career-high 12 rebounds and added three blocks. Niang also posted 14 points to earn a double-double. Niang’s crucial block of Gaulden with one second remaining in the second quarter kept Temple within five points.

“Lena has so much length that it allowed her to make some key stops for us defensively,” Cardoza said. “She was also able to collect a lot of rebounds for us and was able to help some of her teammates defensively, thanks to her length.”

The Owls then defeated Houston (8-8, 1-1 The AAC) in a tight battle on Wednesday evening, holding on for a 61-58 win at the Fertitta Center for their third consecutive win. The Owls have won five consecutive road matches since their Nov. 20 win against Bucknell University.

Temple grabbed the lead with three seconds and 55 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and held on for the final few minutes. The Owls turned the ball over three times within a 14-second span in the final two minutes of the game but forced Houston to miss each of its shots. The Owls also forced Cougars’ senior forward Dorian Branch to miss a potential game-tying three-point shot with nine seconds remaining in the game.

“We were supposed to be switching everything,” Cardoza said. “Someone didn’t switch and she got an open three. We were trying to make them put the ball on the floor. We can’t let her get that shot.”

Defense has been a key issue for the Owls all season but they managed to restrict Houston to just six points in the first quarter on 3-of-13 shooting. They also held Houston to 34.5 percent shooting overall, far below the average 39.5 percent shooting Temple has allowed this season. 

“We tried to take away their strengths and their best players,” Cardoza said. “We made them do something else, but they were able to able to claw back into the game because they were able to get into the paint and score easier buckets and do what they do well. They got on the inside of us and were able to penetrate our defense on the dribble.”

Davis scored 16 points and grabbed a season-high nine offensive rebounds and 18 total rebounds, resulting in her sixth-straight double-double— her tenth this season. She also leads The AAC in rebounds per game and total rebounds.

“Mia is just a tough matchup for people,” Cardoza said. “She was hanging around and using her strength. She grabbed a lot of offensive rebounds and gave us a lot of second-chance points.”

Temple as a unit had plenty of offensive rebounds, grabbing a season-high 23 boards and out-rebounded Houston 50-35 overall. The Owls had 16 second-chance points as a result. 

Temple is now 5-1 on the road this season, with its only loss being against St. Joseph’s on Nov. 11. The Owls now have eight home games and six away games remaining on their schedule with two more away games in January.

The key for Temple appears to be holding the opposing team under 70 points. Temple is 8-2 when holding opponents under the 70 point threshold and just 1-4 when opponents score more than 70.

The Owls will be in action next at home against Southern Methodist (7-7, 1-1 The AAC) on Saturday at 3 p.m. at McGonigle Hall.

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