Owls survive close call at McGonigle

It doesn’t matter what arena the women’s basketball team plays its home games at, as long as it’s somewhere on North Broad Street.

With Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance occupying the Liacouras Center Friday night, the Owls took their act next door to McGonigle Hall, where they barely boogied past Xavier, 59-58, to remain a perfect 7-0 in Atlantic Ten Conference play.

It was first regular season game the Owls have played at McGonigle Hall since they defeated East Tennessee State, 68-46, on Nov. 28, 2003.

The Owls (17-5 overall) relied on the inside presence of Lady Comfort. The junior center secured her third double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds in a tightly contested game which had 13 lead changes and 12 tie scores.

“It was an evenly fought match and both teams had a chance to win it in the end,” coach Dawn Staley said. “I think it’s important just to play well and try to get our team on a positive note down the stretch.”

With the win, the Owls improved their home record to 8-2. The team plays four more consecutive home games before hitting the road to take on Charlotte, Duquesne and George Washington in the last three games of the season.

The Musketeers (16-6, 4-2 A-10) led 58-57 with less than a minute to go when LaKeisha Eaddy drove to the basket and hit a lay-up to put the Owls up, 59-58, with 28 seconds left in the game.

Xavier’s Miranda Green missed a long jumper on the next possession, but the Musketeers stayed alive when Kamesha Hairston couldn’t convert the front-end of a one-and-one free-throw attempt.

Given the ball with six seconds remaining, the Musketeers had to go the length of the court for the potential game-winner. Green flew past a pair of defenders at mid-court but tripped and lost control of the ball near the free-point line. The Owls recovered the loose ball to win.

With Hairston shooting just 3-13 from the field for a season-low eight points, Eaddy and Comfort took over the offensive load. Eaddy scored eight of her 12 points in the second half.

Fatima Maddox also chipped in with six points and five assists.

“We just had people step up and contribute,” Staley said. “When we’re able to pull out a win against a great team like that, we’re growing up. We’re growing up quickly and I’m encouraged by what I saw.”

The Owls had to have been encouraged by Comfort’s ability to stay on the floor. The 6-foot-2 center committed only one foul in a season-high 38 minutes of action.

“When they hold back our No. 1 scorer, [I’ve] just got to step up and just play my game like I know I can play,” Comfort said. “As long as I maintain my ability to not foul and stay in the game, it’s going to be a good outcome.”

Both teams struggled to establish a significant lead early in the game as neither team took more than a four-point advantage in almost the first 18 minutes of the opening half.

The game was deadlocked at 21-21 with 3:51 remaining in the first stanza, when the Owls went on an 8-0 run over the next four minutes, 45 seconds.

The Owls entered halftime with a 31-25 lead. Comfort scored 11 of her 21 points in the first stanza.

“It’s A-10 Conference time,” Comfort said. “You’ve got to perform at your best and make sure you stay on top of your game.”

Freshman Amber Harris, a 6-foot-5 forward, led the Musketeers with 15 points. She was one of three Xavier players who finished in double figures.

Despite the balance scoring attack, the Owls held the Musketeers to 38.3 percent shooting for the game.

“I’m proud because it was our defense that really got the job done,” Staley said.

Temple will take on Dayton (8-14, 3-4) Sunday at the Liacouras Center.

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

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