The women’s basketball team has a clear view of the path to the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament, with a little
more than two weeks remaining in the regular season.
The owners of a spotless 8-0 record in A-10 play, the Owls still have a few obstacles to overcome before they arrive in Cincinnati, the site of next month’s conference tournament.
The Owls (17-5 overall) will play their final three home games against a trio of teams with weaker conference records
before hitting the road for two major showdowns against Charlotte on Feb. 18 and George Washington, the 12th-ranked team nationally, on Feb. 23. Like the Owls, the Colonials are unbeaten in the A-10.
Temple finished below Charlotte (16-7 overall, 7-1 A-10) and George Washington (19-2, 8-0) in the A-10 standings last season with a 12-4 regular season conference record. But the Owls defeated the top-seeded Colonials, 59-54, to win their third consecutive A-10 championship.
They are aiming for a record-tying fourth straight A-10 Championship, which would be the team’s fifth conference title in the last six years.
“It’s A-10 conference time,” said junior Lady Comfort, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds for her third double-double of the season in the Owls’ 59-58 win over Xavier Friday. “You’ve got to perform at your best and make sure you stay on top of your game.”
After beating Dayton, 68-50, Sunday, the Owls will play three more home games against Richmond (10-13, 4-4), La Salle (16-7, 4-4) and Saint Louis (9-13, 1-7). Then they finish the season on the road against Charlotte, Duquesne (7-13, 2-5) and George Washington. The Owls have won 13 of their last 14 games and are 8-2 at home this season.
“I think it’s important just to play well and try to get our team on a positive note down the stretch,” coach Dawn Staley said.
“I just want to take it one game at a time. I’m not thinking about being at home and all of that. We just have to take it one game at a time and try to will our team through these times.”
The Owls survived a couple of close calls last week to keep their perfect conference record alive. Senior Kamesha Hairston hit a game-tying jumper near the end of regulation and the Owls hit 11-of-12 free throws in the extra period to defeat Saint Joseph’s, 78-Five days later, LaKeisha Eaddy hit a lay-up with 28 seconds remaining that proved to be the difference in the Owls’ one-point win over Xavier at McGonigle Hall. The freshman guard finished with 12 points.
“When we’re able to pull out a win against a great team like that, we’re growing up,” Staley said. “We’re growing up quickly and I’m encouraged by what I saw. [I’m] encouraged for next year with Eaddy stepping up big and scoring some points for us.”
It was the first game the Owls played at McGonigle Hall since they defeated East Tennessee State, 68-46, on Nov. 28, 2003.
Although the change in venue was significant – the shot clocks were placed on opposite corners of the floor instead of on top of the backboards – Comfort and Staley said it wasn’t hard for the team to adjust to playing in the older arena.
“We don’t care where we play,” Staley said. “Yes, we like the Liacouras Center and it’s a great place, but I like the atmosphere [at McGonigle Hall]. The crowd is closer.
They really got into the game, which was pretty good.”
The Big Two
Charlotte is led by junior guard Sabrina Gregory, who is averaging 13.2 points per game. The 49ers score an A-10 leading 72.3 points per contest.
On the other hand, George Washington leads the A-10 in scoring defense, allowing only 56.6 points per game. Temple is ranked second in that category, allowing
only 59 points per contest.
Colonials’ sophomore Jessica Adair is the top scorer on a team with four players who average double figures.
The Colonials beat the Owls at the Liacouras Center, 55-50, in overtime Feb. 24 last year, before dropping the A-10 Championship game to Temple less than two weeks later.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.