Temple holds on to beat Delaware

Despite the score being close the entire game, the Owls never lost the lead on their way to a 72-65 win.

Temple guard Aleah Nelson scored a season-high 22 points in the Owls 72-65 win over Delaware. | TROY NEWBY/ THE TEMPLE NEWS

After a decisive win against Penn on Dec. 10, Temple Women’s Basketball looked to continue its momentum against Delaware to climb back to a .500 record on the season, with conference play on the horizon. 

The Owls fought all game against a resilient Blue Hens squad, but they took an early lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Despite Delaware cutting the deficit to as little as two midway through the third quarter, Temple never wavered and secured its second consecutive win.

Temple (5-5, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) took down Delaware (4-6, 0-0 Coastal Athletic Conference) 72-65 Thursday night at The Liacouras Center. The Owls’ offense went cold in the second and early third quarters after a strong start, but their defense stood tall all game, leading them past the Blue Hens. 

“The goal is to play some tough teams before conference play to get prepared,” said head coach Diane Richardson. “Like we did these last couple games we just fought defensively so we are prepared for conference. As long as we continue to have that uptick in defense we will be ready for conference play.”

Guard Aleah Nelson started the season slow but has since found her groove, and she showed out again when her team needed her most. Nelson had her best shooting performance of the season with a season-high 22 points, shooting eight of 13 from the field.

The Owls took a 4-2 lead early in the first quarter and had held that lead all game. However, Delaware cut the lead to 37-35 midway through the third quarter and threatened to take control of the game. 

Nelson hit a three-pointer to give the Owls some much-needed life after Delaware drew within two. Another Nelson three-pointer a few minutes later sparked a 10-0 Temple run that pushed their lead back to 12, gaining back control of the game for the time being.

Delaware refused to go down easy, as they managed to get the lead back down to one with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Owls once again staved off the Blue Hens momentum. Guard Tiarra East drilled a three-pointer and was fouled while doing so. She made the ensuing free throw and allowed Temple to hold on until the final buzzer.

“We just had to stay composed and relaxed every time they got the lead down to two or three,” Nelson said. “We are a good team and we just have to trust our mechanics and what the coaches say and make sure we stay calm.”

The Owls played without three-point sharpshooter Tarriyonna Gary due to a scratch on her eye sustained pregame. She will be with the team on Sunday for the Owls’ next game, Richardson said.

Temple still found success from beyond the arc without her. The Owls made a season-high eight threes and overall shot eight of 14 from deep, led by Nelson, who made a season-high five. 

The Owls shot 40 percent from the field but saw their offense step up in the second half, shooting 42 percent and making big shots to stay in front of Delaware.

“I felt confident against the zone they were playing,” Nelson said. “You just have to take advantage of what the defense gives you and they gave me open threes and I decided to shoot them and they were falling today.”

Temple got off to a strong start against the Blue Hens, jumping out to a 19-8 lead, and found themselves shooting an efficient 50 percent from the field. The Owls’ offense began to slow down late in the first half, but their defense did not.

Temple’s defense came out aggressive and stayed that way. They forced seven Delaware turnovers in the first quarter and 19 turnovers overall, leading to 29 points. The Owls took advantage in transition as well, converting multiple long outlet passes into easy layups before Delaware got back on defense. Temple held Delaware to shooting just 36 percent from the field. 

“I think they are buying in that defense really wins games,” Richardson said. “We spent some time on that last week and we really see it now where they understand that we can’t trade baskets, we have to get stops.”

Temple struggled with foul issues during the game, as Delaware got to the line 23 times and made 20 of them. Temple had multiple players on the verge of fouling out of the game. 

The Owls had three players finish in double figures, led by Nelson, who was joined by East with 15 points and forward Rayne Tucker, who had 10 points. Tucker had one of her best games in the Cherry and White so far, adding 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.

Temple is back in action against La Salle (3-6, 0-0 Atlantic 10) on Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. at the Tom Gola Center.

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