Owls: Nothing to lose against No. 1 Duke

RALEIGH, N.C. – For only the third time in program history, the women’s basketball team has advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But to make it to the Sweet 16, a round that Temple has never reached, the Owls will need to take down the No. 1 team in the nation.

The Owls will face top-seeded Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Tuesday
at 5 p.m. at the RBC Center. The Blue Devils (31-1) easily defeated No. 16-seed Holy Cross, 81-44, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday.

Sophomore Abby Waner led the Blue Devils with 26 points. Senior Alison Bales scored 13 points, while sophomore Carrem Gay and freshman Joy Cheek each scored 10.

Waner scored 20 of her 26 points in the first half and went 6-of-8 from behind the three-point line.

“Abby’s the best [shooter] we’ve had,” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. “We’ve had some real good shooters, Krista Gingrich, Nicole Erickson and Georgia Schweitzer, those three come to mind. But with Abby’s range, she gets [her shot] off just about as quick as anybody, I think.”

The Blue Devils are attempting to make their fifth Final Four appearance in eight years. Duke lost to Maryland in overtime, 78-75, in the NCAA Championship game last year.

“We’re probably going to play a little loser than them,” Temple coach Dawn Staley said. “The pressure is all on them. Our kids are going to come out and we’re going to fight . . . and scratch and claw to stay in the basketball game.

“And if it’s close, we’re going to put ourselves in a position to win the basketball game, that’s for sure.”

Goestenkors, who scouted the Owls in their opening-round game Sunday night, said Temple is an “extremely athletic” squad.

“Temple runs a lot of sets,” Goestenkors said. “You’ll see them call almost every single play. Dawn knows exactly who she wants to get the ball to and when and where.”

Temple went 1-3 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents during the regular season, with their sole victory coming at home against Georgia Tech, 76-62, on Nov. 20. In December, the Owls held a slim lead with about four minutes left against Maryland, the top ranked team in the country at the time, but ran out of steam and lost, 77-66. Based on that experience, the Owls feel confident about going up against the top-ranked Blue Devils, who are also the highest-seeded team in the Tournament.

“We’re just a more mature team now,” senior Fatima Maddox said. “That was back in December. We’ve seen a lot of different things up to this point. Though, I think that we’ll be able to handle anything thrown at us.”

“We won’t be denied,” junior Lady Comfort
said. “We’re going to keep pushing. It’s March Madness, anything can happen. We’re trying to make an upset and we don’t have anything to lose. It’s all on us.”

Tyson McCloud can be reached at tyson@temple.edu.

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