Temple survives offensive struggles to beat UTSA

Temple Women’s Basketball shot less than 27 percent from the field but held strong on defense to steal a 56-48 road win from UTSA Thursday night.

Tiarra East scored 18 points in the Owls 56-48 win against UTSA. Temple now holds sole possession of first place in the AAC. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Women’s Basketball was riding high entering its matchup with UTSA Thursday evening. They secured a piece of first place in the American Athletic Conference with their win against Tulane on Feb. 19 and took full possession of the spot when Charlotte beat North Texas on Feb. 21.

However, Temple came out flat against the Roadrunners, only leading by three points at the end of the third quarter. The Owls suddenly found a spark in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Roadrunners by eight to take a 10-point lead. Guard Aleah Nelson’s layup closed out the game with 17 seconds left and put the finishing touches on the Owls’ fourth straight win.

Temple (16-10, 10-4 American Athletic Conference) beat UTSA (13-12, 7-7 AAC) 56-48 on the road Thursday night. Guard Tiarra East led all scorers with 18 points and six rebounds as the Owls extended their lead in the conference standings to a full game ahead of second place.

“The shooting percentage was down for sure,” said Temple head coach Diane Richardson. “The biggest bulk of it was the 2-15 from three, but defense prevailed. We got stops, and we offensive rebounded 22 times. We knew rebounding was going to be a big deal today.”

The Roadrunners’ offense found early success by scoring in the paint, as 15 of their 18 first quarter points came down low. UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins was a big part of the success, scoring 10 points in the first half and finishing the game with 15.

Temple struggled to match the Roadrunners fast start, scoring just 11 points in the first quarter. Nelson and East both came out slow with a combined 2-9 from the field, and the Owls dug themselves into a seven-point hole.

“The first quarter, we were slow, and we didn’t really follow the scout,” Richardson said. “Then, we have to have a wake-up call or a huddle to remind them that we’ve got to follow the scout. UTSA did exactly what we said they were going to do on the scout.

Guard Demi Washington guided the Owls through the first half and got their offense going. She finished with 10 points on the night, all in the first half, as the Owls went into the locker room up two.

Washington collided knees with a UTSA player with about two minutes remaining in the third quarter and was carried off the court. Richardson said Washington will be fine, citing that Washington wanted to come back in the game but Richardson decided to leave her out.

Temple made up for its offensive struggles by crashing the boards all night. The Owls grabbed 48 rebounds, their second-highest total this season, and converted their 22 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points. 

Temple’s defense held UTSA to just 48 points on 35 percent shooting from the field and eight percent from three. This is the sixth time the Owls have held an opponent to fewer than 50 points this season and the first time since keeping Wichita State to 49 points on Jan. 9

“I talked to them in the locker [and said], ‘We’ve got to rebound and rebound out of area,’” Richardson said. “And then second-effort rebounds. Somebody would tip it, and we kept going at it when they didn’t. Those second-effort rebounds really helped us.”

The Owls will remain on the road to face Rice (15-11, 9-6) in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m.

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