Entering into the second half, already up 13 points against a team that has lost all of its 26 games, the one thing a coach does not want to see is complacency.
Temple coach Dawn Staley made sure her team remained focused in the final 20 minutes, and the Owls went on to win 65-46 at the Liacouras Center Saturday, giving Staley her 168th career victory.
“You got to respect your opponents, because most of them play their best basketball against [us], especially in [the Atlantic Ten Conference], because we’ve been one of the top teams in the conference,” Staley said about her first-place club. “I don’t know if Fordham is going to surprise somebody, [but] I just didn’t want it to be us.”
Senior center Lady Comfort, who played only 10 minutes in the second half because the Rams (0-27, 0-12 A-10) never got within an 11-point deficit, completely agreed with her coach.
“We just didn’t want [Fordham] to have that win over us,” said Comfort, who scored 12 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. “Let them keep being [zero] and whatever they are, because it’s not going be a good thing if we lose to a team like that.”
Despite the fact the Owls (17-11, 10-2) were matched-up with a winless team, they could not shutdown the Rams early on. A quick 6-0 lead turned into an 8-6 deficit just as quickly.
“We took a day off after a tough win at [Saint Joseph’s Wednesday],” Staley said. “We had a short practice yesterday, and we came out a little rusty [in this game].
Eventually, Temple pieced together a 14-2 run, taking the score from 19-17 to 33-19, and from there, they never looked back, running the score to 38-25 at the half.
A key to the strong finish in the first half was guard LaKeisha Eaddy.
The 5-foot-6 sophomore scored all 10 of her points in the final 10 minutes of the half.
“We had to pick it up because we came out very lackadaisical, and we weren’t as aggressive as we usually are,” Eaddy said about the slow start. “We had to snap out of it and start playing hard.”
The lopsided win allowed Staley to rest her starters late in the game, and see what her reserve players could do.
“It was good for other people to finally get on the floor and feel like they contributed to a win and get our starters some rest,” Staley said. “The people we had in at the end of the game did a good job defensively, did a good job offensively [in] moving the basketball and finding good shots on the floor
“You could tell by the intangibles they were still hustling, still getting loose balls,” said Staley about the Rams, who could have given up at halftime. “When a team still plays as hard as they played, they make you play harder. I was glad that our reserves came in and played with the same amount of energy and intensity [as them].”
Staley, who is always watching the standings, was unhappy when it was brought to her attention that Xavier had beaten La Salle, 57-53, at Tom Gola Arena, keeping the Musketeers atop the A-10 standings with the Owls, but her team knows it needs to focus primarily on its own play.
“We get the scores all the time. 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,” Comfort said. “But we worry about ourselves first and foremost. [We] worry about ourselves and play our games.”
The Owls have just two more regular season games before the start of the A-10 Tournament at the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on March 7, the next being at Saint Louis on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
“We’re trying to have energy for 40 minutes, trying to keep it up, play our defense, play physical without fouling,” Comfort said. “[We’re] trying to limit our turnovers throughout the two games we have left, so it carries on to the tournament, so we make good decisions.”
The Owls have beaten Fordham 14 times in a row, going back to the 2000 season, and Temple has now won 19 of 23 total match-ups against the Rams … This was also the seventh time in a row the Owls scored between 61 and 69 points against Fordham. The last time Temple was not in the 60-point range was in 2003, when they only scored 58 … Senior guard Ashley Morris only attempted eight field goals on Saturday, the least she’s taken since she took five in a win against Saint Bonaventure on Jan. 15 … This was the first game of a women’s and men’s doubleheader Saturday. Both squads played Fordham. The men’s team lost to the Rams, 78-76, in the second game of the doubleheader.
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.