Temple’s AAC run ends with loss to Rice in semifinals

Temple Women’s Basketball was eliminated from the AAC Tournament following its 60-57 semifinals loss to Rice on Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas.

After a disappointing end to an otherwise successful season, Diane Richardson will work to rebuild Temple's roster this offseason in order to win the 2025 AAC Tournament Championship. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

FORT WORTH, TX – Temple Women’s Basketball came into the American Athletic Conference tournament with one goal in mind: win a championship. 

However, they couldn’t get it done in the semifinals against 10th-seeded Rice. Temple had the ball down by two points with four seconds left, but guard Aleah Nelson tossed a bad inbound pass that got stolen by Rice forward Malia Fisher. 

Temple fouled Fisher, but the forward sank the free throws and sent her squad to the AAC Championship game.

Temple (20-12, 13-6 AAC) fell to Rice (18-14, 10-9 AAC) 60-57 Tuesday night at Dickies Arena. Miscues and turnovers throughout the game forced Temple to claw its way back into the matchup, and it couldn’t complete the comeback. 

“Coach Myles [Jackson] drew up a play,” said Temple head coach Diane Richardson about the final inbound pass. “I think in the anxiety, [Nelson] made a pass in the corner. The pass was supposed to go to [guard Tarriyonna Gary], and then we would run our stuff. They intercepted the ball, which gave us a terrible ending.”

Temple turned the ball over 22 times in total, but the last one hurt most of all. Rice capitalized on Temple’s turnovers by scoring 18 points off them, including Fisher’s free throw that put the game on ice.

Foul trouble has been a consistent problem for Temple and plagued the team again on Tuesday. Guard Demi Washington and forward Rayne Tucker both picked up two fouls early and were consistently in foul trouble from there. 

Temple has been known for its physical and aggressive playstyle, but the team was forced to play more conservatively than it normally does. Temple was called for 22 fouls, and there were 38 fouls combined between both teams. 

The team relied on forward Denise Solis and guard Tristen Taylor to play extensive minutes because Washington and Tucker went to the bench. Solis played 15 minutes and made her presence known in Tucker’s absence despite scoring just two points. Taylor added 11 points in significant playing time.

“We had to sit some of our players on the bench,” Richardson said. “That always messes up your game plan. We had to adjust, and we had to bring some people in to try and fill the void. We had to be careful defensively because we didn’t want to get any excess fouls and have people foul out.”

Demi Washington lead the Owls with 19 points in Tuesday’s AAC Tournament loss against Rice. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After looking stagnant on offense against Tulane in the quarterfinals, Temple once again did not look like its normal self. The team struggled to communicate and move off the ball early on, and Rice capitalized. 

Tucker picked up two fouls early in the first quarter, and Rice began to work the ball inside the paint. Rice scored 12 of its 17 first-quarter points inside the paint and finished with 26 points on the inside.

Temple had four turnovers in the second quarter, while Rice had just one. Rice took advantage of Temple’s sloppy play, taking a 33-29 lead into halftime. Fisher dominated the first half, scoring 12 points on 5-10 shooting in the first half. 

Rice opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run, but Temple answered back, closing out the quarter on a 12-4 run to cut Rice’s lead to five. Washington had eight of Temple’s 14 third-quarter points.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth battle, as both teams traded misses and baskets. Temple fought its way back into the lead at the three-minute mark of the fourth for the first time since the three-minute mark of the first quarter but could not hold on for the win.

Fisher finished with 17 points and was one of three Rice players to finish in double figures. Guard Destiny Jackson and forward Sussy Ngulefac also finished with 16 and 11, respectively.

Nelson struggled in Temple’s two postseason games, especially against Rice. She finished with seven points on an inefficient 2-10 shooting, including 0-4 from three-point range, and didn’t have a single assist in the semifinal game. 

“She’s had a tough few games,” Richardson said. “I don’t know what to attribute it to. Maybe it was the defense, or maybe it was her trying to set up her teammates. I wish that we could’ve had her scoring and her assists.”

Washington scored a team-high 19 points on 8-10 shooting in what could be her final college basketball game. Guard Tiarra East also finished in double-digits with 10 points and a team-high of eight rebounds.  

Temple will now wait for Selection Sunday on March 17 to see if they are invited to a national postseason tournament. If not, the team’s season has officially ended.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.