After a 10-day lay-off, the women’s basketball team could not contain Pennsylvania forward Jewel Clark and the Quakers, as the Owls opened Big 5 play with a 70-64 loss.
Sophomore Candice Dupree scored a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds, her first double-double of the season. Clark led all scores with 30 points and 12 rebounds.
Temple blew leads early and often throughout the game and twice went scoreless over a five minute stretch. Temple’s first scoring draught allowed Penn to overcome a nine point first half deficit. Temple led 25-18 three minutes before halftime, but let Penn go on a 10-2 run over the final 2:26.
Temple also failed to hold a lead in the second half and Penn ended the game on a 13-4 run over the final 5:24.
“Defensively we didn’t get it done,” coach Dawn Staley said. “We put keys to winning the basketball game up every game and we lost in every category tonight.”
The difference was the Owls’ inability to contain Clark. Clark leads Penn with 17.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. She scored her career-high 33 points and added 12 rebounds in a loss to Temple last season. She finished 25th in the nation in scoring last year, averaging 19.2 points.
Temple’s best defender and captain Toni Belafonte matched up against Clark most of the night but couldn’t keep her away from the basket.
Penn’s defense picked things up a notch and kept the Owls out of sync. During the final six minutes Penn tripled Dupree in the paint and Temple’s offense stalled without their leading scorer. Guards Cynthia Jordan and Christena Hamilton added 10 points apiece, but it wasn’t enough.
Big 5 roundup
With the loss to Penn, Temple will need to beat Villanova, Saint Joseph’s and La Salle in hopes to at least tying for the Big 5 title. Penn lost to Villanova earlier this season and the Wildcat’s beat the Hawks this past Tuesday.
For the past five years the City Series champion had to go undefeated to claim the crown. Temple won the honor two seasons ago.
Unlike the men’s Big 5 Classic, the women’s series is not played in triple-header fashion at The Palestra. Despite the lack-of-hype, these are still games players look forward to.
“I think the Big 5 games you really look forward to,” Clark said. “I think Temple is one of those games I really wanted to have a good game. A lot of our girls know their girls because we play in the summer.”
Tough road ahead
NCAA rules allow for more practice time over breaks from school and classes. Because of this, Staley has begun her preparations for longer practice sessions and a more rigid practice schedule.
But what exactly will she be stressing in these practices?
“It’s got to be defense,” she said. “Our offense is there and I like our offensive setup. [As opposed to this season], we rarely had three people in double figures last year. We have to take care of the other side of the ball…not giving up easy baskets or a direct line to the basket.”
Rebounding has been another weakness for the squad, though Temple out-rebounded Penn 37-32 this past Tuesday. Despite the positive margin, Temple lost the battle of the glass three of its previous four games.
“We do a box-out drill every single day, sometimes two box-out drills,” Staley said. “It has been a point of emphasis for us since the very beginning, even since last year. One of our goals is to get 15 offensive rebounds a game.”
A difficult non-conference schedule lies ahead for the Owls.
Nationally-ranked LSU, Minnesota and Rutgers, along with up-and-coming Big 5 rival Villanova will present some problems, but Staley remains optimistic of her team’s potential.
“We’re gonna [beat] a Top 25 [team],” she said. “It’s something we haven’t done since I’ve been here, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.