Temple University women’s basketball (14-10, 6-5 The American Athletic Conference) defeated Houston (12-14, 5-7 The AAC) at McGonigle Hall on Saturday afternoon, holding on in a tight, back-and-forth affair to win 76-75.
The game saw five lead changes in the third quarter before Temple took a lead with 44 seconds remaining in the third. The Owls did not relinquish that lead for the remainder of the contest.
Houston exploded for the first 11 points of the game, tallying all 11 in just under four minutes. The Cougars continued to build on that lead, eventually holding a 20-4 lead with 2:53 remaining in the first quarter. Part of Temple’s early deficit was due to a high amount of turnovers. The Owls racked up nine of their 18 turnovers in the first quarter alone.
“This game felt a lot like the South Florida game,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “And how we allowed them to just get out and score and nothing would fall for us, and they got out to a 16-point lead.”
South Florida outscored Temple 26-8 in the first quarter of their game on Feb. 9. The difference in this game, Cardoza said, was that the team found ways to score and gave themselves confidence. Temple was able to translate those “ways to score” into only a six-point deficit entering the second quarter and a five-point gap entering the second half.
From there, the Owls clawed back and erased the deficit in the third quarter, thanks to a higher shooting percentage and a different shot selection strategy. They attempted only two three-point shots and attempted and scored more shots within the paint, accumulating 16 of their 38 points in the paint in the third quarter.
“I felt like in the second half we changed up what we were running and put the ball on the floor more,” Cardoza said. “They then committed some fouls and we were able to get to the free throw line.”
‘Putting the ball on the floor’ appeared to help junior forward Mia Davis, who tallied 18 of her 27 points in the second half. Freshman guard Asonah Alexander also made a strong contribution in the half, scoring two points, grabbing three rebounds, racking up three assists and one emphatic block.
“[Alexander] is one of those kids where she has a lot of ability and it’s just, she has to pay attention,” Cardoza said. “She came over today in the game and was asking questions. So that led to think that she was really focused… I thought she did a really good job defensively to keep guys in front of her.”
With its comeback win against the Cougars, Temple has now erased double-digit leads and gone on to win twice in its last six games. When asked about the team’s mentality after falling behind by such a significant deficit, redshirt-sophomore guard Ashley Jones had just three words to say, “Never give up.”
Cardoza stated it slightly differently.
“I wish we would have played a bit better defense,” Cardoza said. “But I’m happy that we came back. It shows a lot to be down 16, and find a way to come back and win.”
Temple will play next on Wednesday at 12 p.m. at the Liacouras Center against Memphis (13-12, 4-7 The AAC).