Senior Lady Comfort and the rest of the women’s basketball team have always been kept well-aware of scores around the Atlantic Ten Conference.
But the 6-foot-2 center acknowledged that she and her teammates need to focus most on themselves.
“We get the scores all the time,” Comfort said after Temple defeated Fordham Feb. 23 at the Liacouras Center. “We always know who’s playing who, when they’re playing, what the halftime score is, and we just try to stay on top of it.
“But we worry about ourselves first and foremost.”
Well this time, the Owls can sit back and watch the scoreboard.
After finishing the regular season tied with George Washington (24-5, 12-2 A-10) for first-place in the conference, Temple (19-11, 12-2) has a first round bye in this weekend’s conference tournament. The No. 1-seeded Owls, who obtained pole position in the conference by defeating George Washington in the team’s only meeting earlier in the season, know they will be on the court Saturday at noon for their first game at Saint Joseph’s Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, but they don’t know who they’ll be facing yet.
The answer will come Friday when the No. 8 Richmond Spiders (13-16, 6-8) and No. 9 Duquesne Dukes (15-14, 6-8) tip-off in their opening round game at noon.
The two teams enter the contest on their own respective streaks — Duquesne with four straight wins, Richmond with three straight losses, and one game during each was against each other. On Feb. 23, the Dukes defeated the Spiders, 76-67, on Richmond’s Robins Center court.
But no matter the comparison, Temple had the best streak of all to end the regular season. Not only was it one better than Duquesne’s four-game run, but the Owls were also victorious in 13 of their last 14 contests.
The Owls beat both teams this season, knocking off host Richmond, 47-40, on Jan. 23, and defeating Duquesne, 74-66, at the Liacouras Center on Feb. 17.
The 47 points Temple scored against Richmond was the lowest point total the team had all season.
Though the Owls shot just 27 percent from the floor, senior guard Ashley Morris found her scoring touch, going 5-for-17 from the field for 22 points.
That match-up was minutes away from a disaster for the Owls, but they woke up and ended the game on a 25-4 run, in which Morris collected 17 of her points.
Including that emphatic win in Richmond, Temple has beaten the Spiders in seven of the team’s 10 meetings all-time.
The Owls have seen Duquesne a lot more than they’ve seen Richmond. The result has been more wins. Temple has won 27 of the 37 contests against the Dukes.
During this season’s one battle, it was all about the seniors.
Comfort had a strong game, netting 16 points and hauling in a career-high 18 rebounds, while the 5-foot-5 Morris dropped 27 points on 11-of-22 shooting.
The Dukes were absent from the A-10 Tournament last year, but two years ago, they were there. That is, until they faced Temple.
Duquesne couldn’t compete with the then-No. 22 team in the nation, and the Owls downed the Dukes, 76-63. In that contest, Temple was led by Candice Dupree’s career-high 31 points, and Kamesha Hairston’s 17 points and 12 boards.
The victory advanced Temple to the A-10 Championship game, where the Owls defeated George Washington and won their third title in three years.
That was sophomore year for Morris and Comfort, but if Temple wants a chance to add another banner to its collection, the duo will need to combine for more than the six points that they scored in the championship game that season.
But for now, Temple will just wait while the Spiders and Dukes battle to see who gets to try for revenge against the No. 1-seeded Owls.
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also read: “Seeking redemption”