Owls’ free throws and bench depth crucial ahead of conference play

After a loss against Penn due to poor free-throw shooting, Temple Women’s Basketball utilized their depth to bounce back with a win against Duquesne.

Temple sophomore forward Ines Piper races past Duquesne junior guard Amaya Hamilton during their contest at Temple on Friday. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After losing a 15-point lead with sloppy execution on both sides of the ball, Temple Women’s Basketball (5-6, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) suffered a heartbreaking loss to the University of Pennsylvania (6-5, 0-0 Ivy League) 62-61 on Dec. 11. With a more well-rounded offensive attack and nine players scoring points, the Owls returned to the win column with a 66-60 victory against Duquesne University (9-3, 0-0 Atlantic-10) on Dec. 16.   

The Owls have already started a three-game home stand, and if they want to win consistently following their victory against Duquesne, they need to improve at the free-throw line and continue to get production from their bench.

Senior guard Aleah Nelson has taken the reins to the offense, becoming the Owls’ main scorer this season after graduate guard Kendall Currence suffered a torn ACL injury pre-season.

Nelson reached her 1,000th point in a career night against Duquesne and finished with a season-high 33 points while shooting 11 for 23 from the field and making seven three-pointers. 

“It was a great team win,” Nelson said following the victory. “Regardless of my personal achievements, I just wanna say we fought, it was a tough game and Duquesne is a very good team and came here to play. Coach said don’t let what happened last game happen again and we rallied together and got stops and that’s what we needed.”

Nelson continues to grab defenders’ attention, allowing her teammates to be more involved offensively. Whether it’s through creating her own shots or facilitating for other good shooting opportunities, Nelson will have to keep leading the Owls’ offensive game to allow more available scoring options.  

Here are some takeaways from Temple’s previous two games.

Free Throw Woes 

Temple has been inefficient from the free-throw line, leading to a lack of potential scoring late in games. 

Temple’s missed free throws in their loss against Penn played a significant role in their offensive demise. The Owls shot 13-of-24 from the free throw line and missed six free throws in the final three minutes of play, denying themselves easy opportunities for a victory. 

“Believe me, I gave them some choice words about free throws,” said head coach Diane Richardson. “The free throws count. I mean, shooting 50 percent from the line is not going to win a game. Especially in the fourth quarter.” 

While the Owls still struggled with missed free throws in their game against Duquesne, they were still able to finish the contest, going 12-of-20 from the free-throw line. Temple put the game out of reach by shooting better from the charity stripe in the final two minutes.

Temple is currently shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line, which is fifth in the AAC. 

Free throws will be crucial during this stretch of contests, so getting foul calls and converting easy scoring opportunities can further secure their chances of competing late in games.

Bench Help 

Temple’s starters may have done the bulk of the scoring, but bench players’ contributions have been the main catalyst in wins for the Owls. Whether it’s through rebounds, defense or ball movement, bench players give Temple some much-needed energy. 

Sophomore guard Tiarra East had been playing inconsistently and her averages had struggled for two consecutive weeks after her hot start to the season, leading her to the bench for the time being.  

“She had some games where she was not doing very well,” said Richardson about moving East to a bench role. “So we made the switch.” 

East recorded all of Temple’s bench points in the loss against Penn, finishing with 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting. She was named to the American Athletic Conference and Big 5 Weekly Honor Roll for her performance. 

The Owls’ bench scored 16 points against Duquesne, and while this was less than in the game against Penn, Temple’s depth still helped with rebounding the basketball and creating second-chance opportunities. 

Senior forward Denise Solis grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds off the bench along with East’s 10 rebounds in her bench role against Duquesne. 

Temple will need to play well on the boards and maintain offensive contributions from their low post players to win consistently during upcoming games.

On Tap 

The Owls will continue their home stretch at The Liacouras Center when they host the University of Mississippi (10-2, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) on Wednesday at noon. 

Temple will play their last home game of the calendar year when they host the University of Memphis (7-5, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) on Dec. 30 in a game that will begin American Athletic Conference play for both teams.

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