LaKeisha Eaddy didn’t want to wait her turn.
The sophomore guard scored 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting, including two three pointers, for 16 points to lead the Owls to a 64-46 victory over visiting Massachusetts on Senior Day Saturday afternoon at the Liacouras Center.
“Keisha has been trying to find her way in the offense. I think she wants to play a more significant role in the scoring department,” coach Dawn Staley said. “It does give her some confidence heading into the A-10 [Tournament] and I think [it gives confidence] for her teammates that she can stick the outside shot.”
With the win, the Owls (19-11, 12-2 Atlantic Ten Conference), along with George Washington’s win today, have clinched a share of the A-10 regular season title. Because Temple topped the Colonials in January, the Owls will get the top seed in the A-10 Tournament, which beings next Friday.
For Staley, it’s an achievement that was considered silly when she came to North Broad Street eight years ago.
“When we first came to Temple and I said we could win A-10 championships, people thought we were crazy,” said Staley. “No one in the A-10 or anybody else really gave us a shot at where we are today.”
Today was a special day for seniors Candice Borrows, Lady Comfort, Ashley Morris and Nicole Pittman who played their final game in front of 1,612 at the Liacouras Center.
Regular starters Morris and Comfort were joined to start the game with Borrows and Pittman. Borrows and Pittman did not score but both had a steal.
It was the second-year Eaddy who stole the show, however. She played 37 minutes, was perfect from the floor to lead the Owls in scoring and an 18-point win. Eaddy picked up the slack for Comfort and Morris who went a combined 6-for-25 from the field.
Seniors Pam Rosanio and Kate Mills scored 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Minutewomen (13-16, 5-9 A-10).
“I was just trying to distribute the ball today” said Morris who dished out 11 assists. “I knew that I wasn’t hitting shots, Keisha was on. When I realize that my shots not on I got to get the ball somewhere else.”
“It gave me the opportunity to see that coach has a lot of faith in me by allowing me to be the only one on the floor to play along with the seniors,” Eaddy said. “Even though they may have not been shooting [well], they were contributing in other ways. It allowed me to put confidence in myself to know that my teammates needed me to win the game.”
Eaddy is also thankful for the chance she had to be around the seniors, especially Comfort and Morris. “They know the system and how coach wants to play,” she said.
“Lady has been an intrical part for the past four years,” Staley said. “Ashley has played a minimal role her first three years, but by far is the focal point of our basketball team. She is leading our team; I think we don’t get where we are without her play on a nightly basis.”
Comfort and Morris have had very different careers at Temple.
Comfort started all 32 games in both her sophomore and junior seasons. This season was the same: Comfort averaged 9.5 points per game and a team-high 8.4 rebounds per game.
Morris played sparingly, starting just one game, in her first three seasons with the Owls. However, she saved her best for her senior year. She’s led the team with 15.1 points per game and 4.1 assists per game this season
Entering the season, Morris said she had put her previous three campaigns behind her.
“Coming into this year I just had a different mindset,” she said. “I wanted my role to be much more significant. I know [there] were a lot of young people on this team and I wanted to step up.”
Staley, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist guard, put a plug in for her senior quarterback.
“I think with this particular basketball team, when you lose the Player of the Year in the A-10 [Kamesha Hairston] people think you have a huge drop off. When you lose that type of player, they leave something here — they leave a wining attitude, they leave players real confident in coming back,” Staley said. “I don’t know who the Player of the Year in this league is, but my vote goes to Ashley, by far.”
In the preseason, the Owls did not get a vote of confidence by the coaches and media in the A-10. Temple was picked to finish fourth in conference behind GW, Charlotte and Xavier. But nonetheless, the Owls are on top of the A-10. They were 6-1 in February and finished the season on a five-game winning streak.
“We’re odds beaters. This basketball team got to the top when on paper it says fourth or lower,” Staley said. “I’m very proud of our basketball team for fighting through a tough season. We played a very tough non-conference schedule and it really paid off when we got in the A-10.”
Said Morris: “We didn’t like it [about being picked to finish fourth]. It was kind of expected. We didn’t have an All-American on our team; we just had a group of girls that wanted to win. Being the underdog kind of helped us because we wanted to win.”
Win they did, as they sit atop the conference, with a first round bye, and are vying for their fifth A-10 Championship since 2002.
“We took our hits and we learned from it. People grew up, everybody got better and improved. This is how you want your season to end, better than people expected,” Staley said. “We feel great. I don’t think we’re overconfident. I think we’re going in with the mindset of winning, just winning, like we do every tournament.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.
Also read: “Seniors’ time to shine”