Temple Women’s Basketball seemed to be cruising to a victory against South Florida after building a 14-point lead in the second quarter. However, USF quickly began to chip away and went into halftime down just seven. The Bulls took the lead midway through the third and continuously held the Owls at arm’s reach.
That changed midway through the fourth quarter. The Owls hit five shots in a row, capped off by a three from guard Tarriyonna Gary that gave them their first lead since the third quarter. Gary got a steal with 11 seconds left and guard Aleah Nelson hit a layup to seal the win.
Temple (13-10, 7-4 American Athletic Conference) took down USF (14-11, 6-6 AAC) 59-55 Saturday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. The Owls picked up a big win against last year’s conference champions as they continue to fight for a top-four spot in the AAC.
“Great team defensive effort,” said Temple head coach Diane Richardson. “The third quarter kind of slipped away a little, but they were poised, bounced back and knew we had to get stops. That’s how we won the game.”
Guard Tiarra East struggled to find the basket in the Owls’ double-overtime loss against Charlotte on Feb. 4, finishing with just six points on 3-9 shooting from the floor. With six days off to get right, Temple’s second-leading scorer found her stroke on Saturday, finishing the game with 21 points on 8-16 shooting and six rebounds.
“It was just my teammates believing in me and finding me when I was open,” East said. “My coaches and teammates had confidence in me and I had confidence in myself.”
Temple shot just 18 percent from the field and scored six points in the first quarter, but the team flipped a switch in the second quarter. East hit a three on the first possession which sparked an 18-0 run in the first nine minutes of the quarter. The Owls took a 24-10 lead nearly halfway into the game.
The Bulls ripped off a 7-0 run of their own in the final minute of the quarter to cut the deficit to seven at halftime. USF carried that momentum into the second half, shooting 52 percent in the third quarter and turning the seven-point deficit into a four-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
“I think we kind of sat back on our heels a little bit instead of playing defense like we normally did,” Richardson said. “They changed their offense a little bit, so we had to adapt and make the adjustments.”
Temple picked things up in the fourth quarter by shooting a blistering 72 percent from the field. Gary scored eight fourth-quarter points, including two three-pointers and the game-sealing steal.
“Every time [Gary] shoots it, you think it is going in,” Richardson said. “That was good to see the ball go in and, of course, her steal at the end of the game. It was awesome.”
Temple’s offense shot 37 percent from the field overall. Outside of East, the Owls struggled to find their rhythm as no one else finished in double figures.
Temple’s defense did its part outside of the third-quarter hiccup. They held USF to just 30 percent from the field but had no answer for forward Romi Levy, who put up 26 points on 8-20 shooting and three blocks.
Temple will stay on North Broad Street to host conference leader UAB (17-6, 8-3 AAC) on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.