Temple women’s basketball (12-7, 4-2 The American Athletic Conference) was down 60-45 against Penn (10-4, 0-1 Ivy League) with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter, its largest deficit all night.
The Owls had not held a lead all game and had turned over the ball 10 times to Penn’s four. Penn had shot 45.1 percent from the field thus far against Temple’s 37.5 percent.
However, the Owls battled back, erasing the Quakers’ lead in just over six minutes. In that time, redshirt-sophomore guard Ashley Jones scored 10 points, including a three-point shot to bring the Owls within two points. Ultimately, the Owls ripped off a 21-point run, concluding with a layup by graduate student forward Lena Niang with 3:51 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Owls a three-point lead. They fell behind 70-69 with 2:12 remaining but held on to win 76-72 Thursday night at McGonigle Hall.
“I’m just really ecstatic about some of the guys’ performances tonight,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “[Niang] played great defense down the stretch, getting some key steals and making big threes and layups. We just had great contributions and I’m really glad they got to feel this and the way that it happened.”
Temple’s win secured the team’s first Big 5 title since the 2016-17 season when they went 4-0 to receive the title. This year, Temple will share it with Villanova, who also held a 3-1 record in Big 5 play this season. Temple defeated Villanova 74-69 at McGonigle Hall on Dec. 10.
“This title meant a lot to me,” Jones said. “I was excited for myself and for my teammates, but I especially wanted to get it for the seniors.”
The younger players stepped up to carry the scoring load for the Owls, with junior forward Mia Davis scoring 20 points and adding 14 rebounds in 40 minutes for her 13th double-double of the season. Sophomore forward Alexa Williamson scored 12 points and reeled in 12 rebounds for her first double-double of the season.
Davis and the rest of the Owls faced several different defensive strategies from the Quakers, including a zone defense, man-to-man defense, and a full-court press for most of the first half. Davis still managed to shoot 44.4 percent from the field.
“We had to take our time with the press,” Davis said. “We had to slow down and not force the ball. When Ashley or [sophomore guard] Marissa [Mackins] got the ball, they attacked the press and got through, which made everything easier for me.”
The Owls were bolstered by the efforts of Jones and Mackins in the fourth quarter, scoring 29 points on 58.8 percent shooting to draw even with the Quakers. Penn scored just 12 points in the final frame, with nine of those points coming in the final three and a half minutes of the game.
With a fresh Big 5 title, the Owls will return to conference play against Cincinnati at 2 p.m. in Ohio at the Fifth Third Arena.