As the final seconds ticked away in Temple’s 20-point defeat to Big 5 rival St. Joseph’s on Dec. 4, Shi-Heria Shipp exited the floor in self-frustration.
In wake of a 2-for-11 shooting performance, coach Tonya Cardoza said Shipp came away feeling the loss solely on her shoulders that night.
“I think she was really frustrated after the Saint Joe’s game because if she had some of those shots that she took early on, maybe the game changes and we get hot from there,” Cardoza said. “She was disappointed after that game and she felt like she let everybody down.”
Perhaps keeping that certain memory in mind, the senior guard made sure she erased it Saturday night, posting game-highs of 17 points and 16 rebounds to lead Temple (5-2) past the University of Montana, 61-52.
“She wanted to be different and today that was her mindset,” Cardoza said. “She was focused at practice and today she just put us on her back. She was the only one who could put the ball in the hole and she was aggressive with all those boards.”
After boarding a near cross-country flight for its first game action in 10 days, Shipp and the rest of the squad made sure the trek was well worth their while despite a slow showing out of the gate early.
Montana (6-2) established its fast-paced offense in the early going and jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the contest’s opening minutes. While the Grizzlies held the lead for the majority of the first half, Temple gradually cut down the advantage and ultimately salvaged a 27-26 advantage heading into the break.
Cardoza said the long period without game action coupled with a preceding 2,000-some mile flight likely affected her team’s play in the early going.
“It’s been a long time since we played, and our guys were excited to play,” Cardoza said. “But, sometimes when you don’t play for that long, when you finally do it actually takes a toll on you and I felt like the first 10 minutes of first half we were really winded. It was like the wind was knocked out of us. We had to definitely get our composure and settle down and make some subs and get guys breathers.”
A 9-0 Temple run to kick off the second half helped break the game open, as the Owls later led by 12 points midway through the half and staved off any potential late Grizzly rally en route to their fifth win of the season.
With senior forward Natasha Thames limited by foul trouble early, freshman center filled in with 25 key minutes and seven rebounds, both career highs.
Temple outrebounded the Grizzlies by a 52-38 margin in a relatively defensive contest that saw both sides average roughly 32 percent shooting from the field.
The latter half of the Owls’ two-game road swing will take place Monday night at the Carrier Dome as Temple will tip off against No. 25 Syracuse at 7 p.m.
Despite coming away with a win that was far from flashy, Cardoza said it gives the team confidence heading into a matchup that offers her team the prospect of a Top-25 upset bid.
“It was a big win for us with the way the game was going and we could’ve easily lost today,” Cardoza said. “It wasn’t a pretty game, but we’ll take the win on the road and with the travel. It’s not going to be an easy game [Monday] playing two games in a row on the road, but we have to make sure we’re focused and have our heads in the game to give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daParent93.