The Owls (5-5) held a lead against UCLA for nearly the entire game as they went on to win 59-53 on Tuesday at McGonigle Hall.
The shot should never have had a chance in the world to fall, but the heave that left senior guard Shey Peddy’s hands as she fell to the floor in front of the foul line somehow found the nylon.
“I was going to try to beat [the defender], but she cut me off,” Peddy said. “[I tried] a step-back move but my knee buckled and I just knew I was falling. I didn’t want to turn it over so I just knew if I threw it on the rim somebody would get it, and it just went in.”
Peddy was nearly on her back when she put up the prayer shot with 15 seconds left in the game and her team clinging to a 56-53 lead against UCLA. The Bruins were on a 10-2 run and were looking for the dagger to tie the game before Temple’s leading scorer stuck her own dagger, proving once again why she’s on the early-season watch list for the Naismith Award.
“You know, you’ve got to work on junk shots,” Peddy said with a smile. “They might come in handy sometimes.”
It was a near mirror of the first half as well, when Peddy put up a runner to beat the buzzer that put her team up 29-25 at the break and stopped an 8-2 Bruins’ run.
Temple took the momentum Peddy gave them after halftime and kicked off the second half with a 9-1 run.
“I thought that was really good because we started showing emotion with each other,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “You could see the fire in each other, like when someone made a great play or a big shot,”
But UCLA didn’t back down, coming within four or fewer points six times in the final 16 minutes. But Peddy made six of Temple’s last eight points that slowed the bleeding. Her 18th point of the night stopped it all together at 58-53.
“They’re a really tough team. They pushed us all the way to the edge,” Cardoza said. “But today I thought that our guys just fought to the very end. We didn’t back down.”
It was an unusually night for the Owls. UCLA converted 41.1 percent of their shots, including 60 percent from three-point land, something Temple doesn’t allow often.
“They’re all shooters and we tried to limit their shots and switch on the screens,” Peddy said. “But I think for the most part we stuck to the plan and we executed pretty good.”
Cardoza also had to rely on freshman guard Monaye Merritt more than usual. Merritt played a season-high 20 minutes after senior guard Kristen McCarthy sat most of the first half in foul trouble. McCarthy scored seven points, leaving her 12 points out of fifth place on the all-time points list in school history.
When Merritt re-entered the game in the second half, UCLA targeted her relentlessly in a full-court press.
“I think that coach put me in the game because she believes in me and has confidence in me, and gives me a boost to have even more confidence in myself,” Merritt said. “So for them to put full-court pressure on me, it’s just like practice with [Peddy] or BJ [Williams] guarding me. It’s get the ball up the floor, do what you have to do.”
The Owls also received little offense help from the centers, junior Victoria Macaulay and senior Joelle Connelly. The duo went scoreless and tallied 11 combined rebounds.
“It’s just a mindset and being confident and finishing,” Cardoza said. “Right now it’s something simple and easy, and they’re making it more than it really is. I think right now it’s just in their heads, and they’ve just got to let it go.”
Fortunately for the Owls, senior guard BJ Williams and junior forward Brittany Lewis picked up the slack. Williams recorded 13 points and a game-high nine assists, while Lewis tacked on 15 points.
Meanwhile Bruins’ sophomore guard Thea Lemberger and junior forward Markel Walker led the Bruins with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Walker also had a game-high eight rebounds.
The Owls return to action on Thursday against rival Villanova in their fourth game of their five-game home stand. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.