Everyone expects the best player on the court to get the ball with the game on the line.
Sure enough, Kamesha Hairston, the leading scorer on the women’s basketball team, had the ball in her hands with less than 20 seconds remaining in a tie game Friday.
But when Hairston missed a running floater in the lane with the clock winding down, it was Nicole Pittman, the Owls’ 6-foot-3 reserve center, who came to the rescue.
Pittman snatched the ball away from a crowd of defenders and contoured her body to make an off-balance layup with 1.1 seconds left to help the Owls sneak by Villanova, 68-66, at the Pavilion.
“I just knew I needed to get the rebound and get the last shot,” Pittman said. “I was just praying that it went in. I’ve never been put in that position, so it was exciting for me.”
Pittman’s game-winning basket was her only shot of the game. The junior had four rebounds, one assist and a block in 22 minutes of competition.
“Pittman did her job,” coach Dawn Staley said. “She rolled to the basket and put herself in a position to do what she does best and that’s rebound … I think this will be a confidence booster for her.”
The Owls (7-4) have won their last three games – the team’s longest winning streak of the season.
Temple trailed by 10 points with eight minutes remaining before going on a 14-0 run to take a 61-57 lead.
The Wildcats (5-6, 1-2 Big East Conference) regained the lead when sophomore Lisa Karcic hit a three-pointer from the right elbow. Her shot put the Wildcats up by one with less then four minutes remaining.
Hairston, who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season, knocked down a floater in the lane to give the Owls a 66-64 advantage with a little more than a minute left.
Senior Jackie Adamshick then hit a lay-up on the Wildcats’ next possession to tie the game again with 33.2 seconds remaining.
After Pittman’s follow-up layup, the Wildcats still had a chance to tie or win the game with 1.1 seconds left. But freshman LaKeisha Eaddy stepped in and stole the Wildcats’ errant inbound pass to seal the victory for Temple.
Eaddy finished the game with three steals, five assists and a career-high 20 points.
“Since I was in high school, I’ve always been told that defense would create my offense,” she said. “I know that if I can get defensive stops, then my offense will eventually come and that’s basically what happened in this game.”
Eaddy provided the Owls with an offensive spark after Hairston left the game midway through the first half because of foul trouble. She scored 14 points, mostly on mid-range jumpers, before intermission.
“[With Hairston] being in foul trouble somebody’s going to have to step up,” Eaddy said. “I felt that I finally had to step up.”
The Owls pulled out the victory despite the Wildcats hot three-point shooting.
Villanova hit 9-of-21 shots from beyond the arch. Karcic was 4-of-5 from the three-point line while Adamshick went 3-of-6 from deep.
Karcic scored 18 points and Adamshick finished with 19.
Staley said she was impressed with the team’s effort, especially the performances of Eaddy and Pittman.
“That was a gutsy win for us,” Staley said. “We were down 10 with about [eight] minutes left and I knew we had it in us to come back.”
BIG 5 TIME
This was Temple’s first Big 5 game of the season. The Owls have won the Philadelphia Big 5 title in each of the last two seasons, going 4-0 in the city series both times.
The Owls resume Big 5 play Dec. 29 at Penn (4-4).
Tyson McCloud can be reached at Tyson@temple.edu.