Owls secure Big 5 title share in final quarter

Temple women’s basketball entered the last 15 minutes with a double-digit deficit.

Freshman guard Asonah Alexander attempts to drive to the basket during the Owls' game against Penn at McGonigle Hall on Jan. 23. | NICK DAVIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple women’s basketball (12-7, 4-2 The American Athletic Conference) won the Big 5 championship this season, thanks to a double-digit fourth-quarter comeback Thursday night against Penn (10-4, 0-1 The Ivy League). 

The Owls trailed by as much as 15 points in the second half and entered the fourth quarter down by 13, but timely defense led to the comeback, coach Tonya Cardoza said.

“We started to buckle down and take things away that they wanted to do,” Cardoza said. “We were being disruptive.”

Redshirt-sophomore guard Ashley Jones had 10 points in the frame and led the Owls offense, which struggled in the first three quarters. Jones finished with 17 points, six assists and a steal.  

The Owls had only shot 37.5 percent from the field through the first three quarters, but found their groove in the fourth, scoring 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Temple also went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. 

Jones attributed the Owls’ late comeback to the other end of the floor. 

“The defense actually motivated me,” Jones said. “Playing defense helped carry me into the offensive end”.

Several Owls turning defense to offense sparked the comeback. 

“[Sophomore forward Alexa] Williamson had a double-double and it was huge,” Cardoza said. “Some of her offensive and defensive rebounds were huge.” 

Cardoza also credited graduate student forward Lena Niang with coming up with big steals down the stretch. Niang also made all seven of her points in the fourth, including two free throws that gave the Owls a lead they wouldn’t give back. 

Junior forward Mia Davis also got going in the fourth. Davis made 13 of her 20 points in the quarter. 

“Every time we got into the huddle, I made sure that I was talking to everyone and harping on the little things that helped,” Davis said.

The win gave the Owls the Big 5 championship, something Jones said was a goal for her at the beginning of the season. 

This was a significant win for a relatively young Owls team, Cardoza said. 

“When the game was pretty much over, I was staring at them and I was just so happy for them because they haven’t experienced this kind of success,” Cardoza said. 

The Owls are hoping to carry this defensive effort when they resume conference play, Cardoza said. 

“If we can play defense, I think we can beat just about anybody left on our schedule,” Cardoza said.

The Owls will continue conference play at Cincinnati (12-6, 3-2, The AAC) Sunday at 2 p.m.

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