Temple dominates Xavier for first road win

Temple Women’s Basketball started the game slowly, but used a 10-point halftime lead to coast to a 78-41 win at the Briann January Classic.

Ines Piper had a team-high 10 rebounds in the Owls 78-41 win over Xavier to snap their three-game losing streak. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Before game one of the Briann January Classic, Temple Women’s Basketball lost three games in seven days from Nov. 15-22. The Owls got off to slow starts and could not overcome their struggles, dropping below .500 after starting the season 2-1.

The Owls had a much needed nine-day break after their loss to Saint Joseph’s on Nov. 22 and came out of the break refreshed, playing some of their best basketball of the season.

“The break helped everybody,” said Temple head coach Diane Richardson. “We saw that spring in their legs, we saw them just getting after it and the intensity on defense.”

The Owls (3-4, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) dominated Xavier (0-7, 0-0 Big East Conference) 78-41 Friday night in Tempe, Arizona, in game one of the Briann January Classic. The Owls overcame a slow first-quarter start using strong defense and a well-balanced attack, as they coasted to their first road win this season.

“We’re pleased with our performance tonight,” Richarson said. “Of course, we got another one tomorrow, so we gotta get over that.”

All 12 active Temple players got minutes in the win, and no one played more than 25 minutes. Richardson’s rotation allowed her team to play intensely while staying fresh with the quick turnaround Saturday.

Temple guard Tiarra East struggled to shoot the ball efficiently through the Owls’ first six games, averaging just 27 percent from the field. However, East shot an efficient 63 percent from the field and had a team-high 13 points in the win. 

Turnovers played a crucial role in the game thanks to Temple’s high-intensity defense. They forced 23 Musketeer turnovers, scoring 31 points off them.

“We’re putting pressure on the ball,” Richardson said. “Pressure on the receivers as well and try to speed them up.”

The first quarter began as most of the games have for Temple. The Owls started the game shooting 0-6 from the field. Xavier took the early lead and looked confident, forcing turnovers and missed shots.

Richardson called a timeout just four minutes into the game, reminding her team to get downhill and find better shots. The message resonated, as the Owls came out of the timeout with newfound energy.

“We knew the game plan was attacking the rim, and we didn’t do that on those six shots,” Richardson said. “We had to call a timeout and reiterate what the game plan was to make sure we followed the scout.”

Forward Rayne Tucker hit back-to-back jumpers out of the timeout, starting the Owls’ 14-5 run. Temple took the lead with three minutes left in the first quarter and held it for the remainder of the game. She ended with eight points on 3-6 shooting, one rebound and three blocks.

Forward Jaleesa Molina was another bright spot, finishing the night with 12 points and five rebounds off the bench.

Molina struggled with turnovers in previous games, largely due to the fact that European traveling rules and offensive fouls differ from collegiate rules. Molina gave up 10 turnovers in the four previous games, including five in Temple’s win against Bucknell. Friday, she had just one.

“We’re hoping,” Richardson said when asked if Molina was adjusted to the rules. “It’s up to the referees’ discretion on some of the walk calls. She’s more stationary on her screens, so that has been an improvement, and we’re happy about that.”

The Owls will look to continue their momentum in the second game of the Briann January Classic against Pacific (4-2, 0-0 West Coast Conference) on Dec. 2 at 3 p.m.

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