Thames leads Owls to win at Delaware

When the ball was tossed up to signal the start of the second half, it was Natasha Thames time.

The redshirt-senior forward was held scoreless in the first half of Temple’s bout with Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center Tuesday night, and was relatively ineffective in the paint, pulling down three rebounds through 20 minutes.

Splitting time both at center and power forward when freshman center Taylor Robinson was on the floor, Thames came alive in the second half with a game-high 15 points and six rebounds to boot as Temple overcame a slow start and downed the Blue Hens, 70-58.

“I was trying to get open more and post a little harder,” Thames said. “In the first half I was definitely frustrated because they were playing really good defense on me and I couldn’t get myself open, but I just worked harder.”

Thames narrowly missed out on a double-double with her 15 points and nine rebounds, but recovered nicely against a bigger Delaware frontcourt anchored by 6-foot-3 center Kelsey Buchanan. The do-it-all leader for the Owls thus far this season also led the team with five steals.

“At first [I struggled],” Thames said. “In the first game I played [at La Salle], I was fouling a lot and I was trying not to foul. I kept getting behind her and that’s what [the coaches] don’t want me to do so it was really hard for me to get around because they’re a lot bigger than me, a lot stronger than me. But, you know, I just have to keep working hard and do the best I can.”

The early of going looked eerily similar to the first half of Friday’s game at La Salle, as the Owls took an early 5-2 lead before Delaware went on a 15-3 run to take an early lead.

After its second slow start of its young season, Temple (2-0) then climbed back with a balanced attack, capped by 3-pointers from junior guard Tyonna Williams and sophomore Meghan Roxas before the buzzer to take a 31-26 lead into halftime.

Delaware (1-1) pulled back early in the half in what became a back and forth contest that saw the Blue Hens knot the score at 46 apiece.

The Owls then ripped off a 16-1 run that showcased Thames and Roxas, who hit two of her four 3-point buckets off the bench during the point streak, which put Temple ahead by 15 at the end of it and helped carry the Owls to their second win in as many games.

“We knew coming in here it was going be tough,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “This was their home opener and after the year they had [last year], we knew they would be on a high and really ready to play in front of their fans. They got off to a good start but just like the La Salle game, we stuck with it and our defense picked up and got us some easy buckets and we started really rallying around things we were doing on the defensive end. It gave us a lot of energy.”

Though it was not her career-high, Roxas’ four long-range jumpers were the most she’s had in one game in a Temple uniform.

“After the first one I knew I was good,” Roxas said. “I consider myself a three-point shooter. I’ve tried to get better at it though from last season to this season and I worked on it in the summer and the preseason.”

The Owls held the Blue Hens to 38.9 percent shooting from the floor including a 1-for-9 performance from three-point range. Delaware also didn’t put up a field goal for 11 minutes and 57 seconds in the second half.

Cardoza praised Temple’s effort on the defensive end, which reached a high point when the Owls forced the Blue Hens into a 10-second violation call in their own end of the court.

“We talked about this at the beginning of the year that if we can really bear down the defensive end, we can be a really good team,” Cardoza said. “That’s two games in a row that we put the clamps down and didn’t give their top scorers easy looks. I definitely think our press riled them a little bit. We were able to get some violations called on them and it was just a great job defensively.”

Temple shot 42.1 percent (24-for-57) from the floor and lost the rebound battle, 37-36, to a much taller Delaware team from top to bottom.

The Owls will put their unbeaten record to the test Saturday night when they take on Auburn in the Owls’ home opener at McGonigle Hall at 6 p.m.

Andrew Parent can be reached at andrew.parent@temple.edu or on Twitter @daParent93.

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