Temple beats Penn with strong defensive effort

Temple Women’s Basketball struggled shooting from the field Sunday at The Liacouras Center, but the Owls’ defense propelled them to a 61-47 win.

The Owls defeated Penn 61-47 at the Liacouras Center. | OMARI COKER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Women’s Basketball guard Aleah Nelson struggled to open the season, as her shots would not fall in her first few games. When head coach Diane Richardson challenged her to step up her game at halftime of Temple’s loss to Pacific on Dec. 2, Nelson answered with 17 points, showing a level of confidence fans hadn’t seen this year.

Nelson showed that same confidence less than a minute into Temple’s game against Penn. She drove straight to the paint and hit a contested layup before letting her defender know they were too small to guard her. This energy proved to be the deciding factor in Temple’s gusty rivalry win.

Temple (4-5, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) beat Big 5 rival Penn (6-5, 0-0 Ivy League) 61-47 Sunday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. The Owls overcame a slow offensive start with strong defense to earn their fourth win of the season.

“[Nelson] has concentrated a lot more on getting the team ready to go,” Richardson said. “I always tell her, ‘The speed of the group is the speed of the leader.’ They do what she does, and she stepped up today.”

Forward Ines Piper had one of her best games of the season so far, finishing with a career-high 16 points and 10 rebounds, which marks her second double-double of the season.

“I always feed off my teammates’ energy,” Piper said. “My coaches always tell me, ‘If you don’t get the ball, go get it,’ and it just translated into some good offense.”

However, Temple struggled on offense Sunday, shooting 7-20 in the first 10 minutes, but their aggressive defense kept them in the lead to close the frame. Temple held Penn to 33 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter and forced five turnovers.

“Our Achilles heel is the first quarter,” Nelson said. “Some games, we come out slow. It’s all about how we come out, and today, we made it our goal to come out strong. They always say, ‘Throw the first punch so we don’t get punched first.’”

The Owls shot just 38 percent from the field, which is their worst percentage since their 80-63 loss to Ole Miss on Nov. 16. Temple scored 31 of their 61 points off turnovers despite only making 17 of their 30 layup attempts.

Temple played well when finding ways to score in the paint. This came in the form of creative ball movement which allowed easy layups down low. Guard Tiarra East and forward Rayne Tucker impressed in the paint, combining for 24 points and 13 rebounds.

“The game plan was to go inside,” Richardson said. “They listened to the scout this time. We missed a few bunnies, but we cleaned it up with our offensive rebounds, so I was pleased with that.”

In addition to the win, Nelson reached 500 career assists Sunday, joining Feyonda Fitzgerald and Donna Kennedy as the only three Owls to reach this accolade.

“She was definitely facilitating today,” Richardson said. “That’s one thing about Aleah, she’s going to be a good team player. She’s going to get those assists, and she’s going to help everybody. If we need her to score, she’ll score.”

The Owls will pursue their next win at home when they play Delaware (4-4, 0-0 Coastal Athletic Conference) on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at The Liacouras Center.

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