Temple falls to UMass; now shares first-place

Women’s Basketball – Sunday’s Game La Salle (6-19, 2-12 A-10) at Temple (15-10, 10-4) When: 2 p.m. Where: Liacouras Center Coaches: LaSalle: John Miller (287-173); Temple: Dawn Staley (34-21) Key players: LaSalle: Suzanne Keilty (Sr.,

Women’s Basketball – Sunday’s Game
La Salle (6-19, 2-12 A-10) at Temple (15-10, 10-4)
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Liacouras Center
Coaches: LaSalle: John Miller (287-173); Temple: Dawn Staley (34-21)
Key players: LaSalle: Suzanne Keilty (Sr., F 11.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg), Kat Foley (So., F 11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Beth Hudak (Sr., F 10.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Temple: Athena Christoforakis (Sr., F 13.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Natalia Isaac (Sr., G 12.5 ppg), Stacey Smalls (Jr., G 10.6 ppg, 3.4 apg), Lisa Jakubowicz (Sr., C 7.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg).
Outlook: This is the first meeting between the two teams this season. The Explorers lead the all-time series, 20-9. Despite the records, this game is a must win for the Owls if they want the momentum heading into the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Owls will have to contain La Salle’s frontcourt and control the pace of the game to keep the Explorers from pulling off an upset. Jakubowicz has had past success against La Salle’s post players.

—Chris Silva

Temple’s women’s basketball team (15-10, 10-4) hit a speed bump last Friday en route to a possible first Atlantic 10 regular season championship with an overtime loss to UMass at the Liacouras Center, 64-56.

The loss puts the Owls in a first place tie in the East Division with Saint Joseph’s.

“This loss was real discouraging,” coach Dawn Staley said. “Our approach has to be different the second time we play teams that we have beaten earlier in the season.”

The Owls have struggled the second time around against teams, and Staley believes it could be because of the lack of a revenge factor. Everybody in the A-10 wants a piece of the Owls, who have shown they can win against the odds and size factor.

But take away their transition game, find a way to beat their blend of presses and you just might pull out a win against Temple.

That’s exactly what UMass did. The Temple defense never collapsed. It was the offense instead, as the team shot 2-for-14 from the floor during overtime. The final stats were pretty even for both squads. But the Owls struggled to get anything started offensively when the Minutewomen switched to a zone, forcing Temple to slow down its tempo and added timely scoring.

The Owls had the momentum heading into the extra period, but costly turnovers from the more experienced players kept them a step behind.

“Basically we didn’t come ready to play. We didn’t bring it today, and it showed,” said junior point guard Stacey Smalls.

Temple then bounced back with a 66-51 win over Rhode Island on Sunday, despite a shaky first half. The Owls shot 54.8 percent from the field in the second half. Senior forward Athena Christoforakis recorded another double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, hitting from nearly everywhere along the perimeter as the Rams were another team that failed to contest her shots.

Smalls added 14 points and seven rebounds, including four 3-pointers. The Owls also received some help from junior Chrissy Cruz, who provided four points and four rebounds in 11 minutes.

Temple always responds well following losses and normally plays a far better brand of basketball than the previous game. But the losses are beginning to accumulate, and the team will have to find a way to win consistently, especially over weaker teams, or else they will be forced to play in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament again.

Both the Owls and their fans know the caliber of this team and its potential. But the team must look past opponents’ records and history to know that there isn’t a team in the league that won’t come ready to face them with some sense of what’s in store.

“We have to win out and win our tournament if we’re trying to achieve the goals we set earlier this season,” Staley said.

The Owls have split both games against UMass and St. Bonaventure this season, two teams in the lower tier of the A-10, but have been successful against the rest of the East with a sweep of St. Joe’s and Rhode Island.

The Owls will receive their next test against Fordham in the Bronx on Friday. They had their way with Fordham earlier this season in a 59-41 win at home. But this time around, anything is possible.

Temple will then conclude its regular season with a home game against La Salle, a game that could carry more than bragging rights if the Owls struggle against Fordham. La Salle is at the bottom of the A-10 West with only two conference wins. That’s something that doesn’t sit well with Staley.

“They’re the most dangerous team because of that fact,” she said.

The Owls have gone from being the hunter to the hunted.

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