Maybe it foreshadowed what’s to come in the postseason. Maybe it was a lesson that needed to be re-learned by a team that hasn’t lost since 2004. But the No. 16 women’s basketball team knows that shooting 2-of-18 to start a game is not the best way to win.
That’s how the Owls began against Dayton on Sunday, but they came alive in the second half to salvage a 69-58 win. After the game, coach Dawn Staley searched for something to blame for the team’s early offensive sputter, but found nothing.
“I don’t know what it was. We were getting good looks,” she said.
The Owls (22-3, 14-0) survived a feeble first half in which they shot just 33 percent from the field. During one stretch, the Owls hit only two of 18 field goal attempts. That type of output could have been costly, but the Owls hit 12 free throws to help score 26 first-half points.
The offense was nearly non-existent, but the Owls’ defense kept them in the game. They flustered the Flyers (11-14, 5-9) into committing 23 turnovers, including seven in the game’s first 10 minutes. Staley said the Flyers maintained the lead by capitalizing on easy looks.
The Flyers’ frontcourt tandem of Cara Wright and Jennifer Strong was largely responsible for Staley’s frustration. Wright and Strong created defensive mismatches and dominated the post, scoring 20 and 18 points, respectively.
Still, Staley said she was more concerned with Dayton’s defense than her own.
“They did something pretty remarkable today. They triple-teamed Candice [Dupree],” she said. “They did it a lot, too.”
Despite the defensive attention she received, Dupree managed her 12th double-double of the season, tallying 25 points and 12 rebounds. The junior center dished just three assists, but all three created opportunities for senior forward Ari Moore.
“We have a thing; I don’t know what you would call it, either,” Moore said of her connection with Dupree. “I throw the ball up and she gets it. Once in a while, she will find me open.”
Temple went into the half trailing, 27-26. It was the first time the Owls’ had a deficit at halftime since Dec. 21 at Villanova. The Owls responded in the second half Sunday by hitting 57 percent of their shots. While the perimeter players hit jumpers almost at will, Dupree said it became more difficult to score inside as the game progressed.
“I posted up when there was only one post [defender],” Dupree said. “We work on playing through post defense a lot in practice. That helped us a lot.”
The Owls honored point guard Cynthia Jordan, forward Rachel Marcus, and Moore for Senior Day on Sunday. Moore scored 14 points and Jordan added eight in what could be both players’ last game on their home floor. The Owls could play another home game this season if they survive the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
The Liacouras Center was chosen as a site for two regional rounds, including the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight.
Against Dayton, sophomore forward Kamesha Hairston scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds, including five first-half offensive rebounds. She is averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in her first season as a starter. Those numbers are a huge improvement on her freshman season when she averaged 4.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 31 games off the bench.
Junior guard Jennifer Owens was kept out of the starting lineup for the first time this season because of Senior Day. Marcus, who has seen action in 15 games this season, got the start in Owens’ place. Marcus had started one game in her career prior to Sunday. She contributed one block in the Owls’ 19th straight win.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.