Sophomore forward Natasha Thames carried the Owls [6-4] to their fourth straight win in blowout fashion against Hartford.
The unlikely hero on the night posted her second double double of the season, recording 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Owls won big, 63-45.
The team was uncharacteristically dominant in the paint over a struggling 1-9 Hartford squad. Thames and company consistently drove hard to the basket and made good passes that led to easy buckets under the rim. Temple scored 34 points in the paint, including 20 in the second half, and only shot 11 three-pointers.
Coach Tonya Cardoza was all smiles about Thames’s performance, giving her much of the credit for the team’s dominance down low.
“When we threw the ball into the post we scored, so that’s what you’re going to go with,” Cardoza said. “When [Thames is] scoring like that there’s no reason for us to jack up three’s.”
The Owls also played solid defense, beginning the night with three steals in the first four minutes of the game and setting the tone early for the rest of the night. Junior guard Shey Peddy led the team with three steals as the team recorded eight on the night.
While they were able to create easy turnovers on the defensive end, the offense turned the ball over just once in the first half.
Hartford managed to keep the game close for the first few minutes, leading at one point 15-13 before the Owls went on a 10-0 run and never looked back. Despite the score the Hawks played aggressive and never gave up, something Cardoza was impressed by.
“Their probably the best [1-9] team we’ve ever faced. They’re coached extremely well, they’re disciplined, and they work extremely hard,” Cardoza said. “[Coach Jennifer Rizzoti] has done a great job. They’re a reflection of her, ‘cause that’s how she was as a player.”
Temple went into the half leading 33-24, closing out the first 20 minutes on a 20-9 run. The team’s relentless effort in the paint forced Hartford into foul trouble early. The Owls went 9-14 from the line in the first half. The Hawks had no answer for the Owls inside presence.
“That’s the type of balance that we need,” Cardoza said. “We need to be able to score in the paint, not just by dribble penetration [but] by throwing the ball into the post players and having them score with their back to the basket.”
Hartford opened up the second half on an 8-4 run and looked like they were ready to get back in the game, but Thames had other plans. The forward scored seven of the team’s first nine points following intermission and set the tone for the run-away second half.
“I think I definitely came out more aggressive this game,” Thames said. “But the guards did a really good job making good passes into the post so I was taking advantage of that.”
Senior guard Qwedia Wallace and Peddy combined for only 12 points on the night but the team didn’t miss their production. Satoria Bell and junior forward Kristen McCarthy recorded 10 points and 11 points, respectively, to compliment Thames’s 15-point performance. BJ Williams also provided a spark at guard, despite only scoring five points.
“I thought that BJ Williams did a great job of being a great floor leader and pushing the tempo and being that aggressive point guard mentality out there,” Cardoza said. “I think she definitely was a reason why the intensity level definitely stayed high.”
The Owls answered Hartford’s second-half start with their own 11-1 run to jump to a 48-33 lead. With the game basically over with ten minutes remaining the Owls continued to apply the pressure. Behind Thames’s 11 second-half points the team went on an 11-5 run to close out the game.
“It was a great effort,” Cardoza said. “We finally got some really good touches in the post where we were aggressive and scoring and I think if we can continue to have that balance I think things will be brighter for us in the future.”
The Owls will look to continue their hot streak against cross-town rival Villanova on Dec. 19 in their first Big-5 game of the season. With their new-found balance in the paint the team will look to build their momentum as they get ready to face a dominant Duke team on Dec. 30.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com.