Teams opposing the women’s basketball team often overlook senior point guard Cynthia Jordan.
But Jordan’s 26 points led the Owls to a 72-64 win over George Washington last night. Jordan stole the ball at midcourt twice in the final two minutes of the game, leading to an easy four points.
“I was just playing until the buzzer,” Jordan said. “I was fortunate to get those steals and just put away the game.”
With the win, the Owls (16-3, 8-0) set a program record with their 13th consecutive victory.
Temple raced to an early 24-8 lead in the first half, but the Colonials came back. The Owls failed to score on 18 straight possessions in the first half and momentarily lost the lead. They went into halftime with just a three-point lead. It wasn’t until several key free throws in the game’s waning moments that Temple finally achieved a comfortable lead.
The Owls contained forward Anna Montanana for much of the game. They held Montanana to just nine points at the half.
Junior center Candice Dupree and sophomore forward Kamesha Hairston each posted double-doubles, providing Jordan with additional scoring support. Dupree tallied 18 points and 12 rebounds while Hairston had 13 points and 10 boards.
Coach Dawn Staley readied her team for games like these. Playing championship hopefuls Tennessee and LSU would prepare the Owls for competitive conference games, she said.
The Owls’ toughest conference stretch in Staley’s five-year tenure comes to a close Sunday when Xavier visits the Liacouras Center. Last week, the visiting Owls hammered then-No. 25 Richmond, 82-62. Temple and Xavier (12-5, 6-0) are the only undefeated teams in the conference.
The Owls may have a difficult time containing Xavier forward Tara Boothe, who is coming off an impressive week. Boothe earned her second A-10 Player of the Week honor of the season. She paced Xavier on offense and defense, averaging 25.5 points, seven rebounds and three steals in two games last week.
“Boothe is just a solid player,” Dupree said. “She can shoot the three. She can post [players] on the blocks. She can do a little bit of everything.”
Dupree said it is safe to assume Temple’s preparations for Boothe will be similar to the way Xavier prepares for Dupree. Boothe and Dupree are their teams’ leading offensive weapons.
“It’s not even like its just about getting ready for Boothe,” Dupree said. “For Temple, [our opponents] are looking at me the same way, thinking the same things.”
Prior to this season, Boothe said Xavier was going to give Temple extra attention in its preparation for the game. She said the Musketeers lost a lot of close games last season because they couldn’t maintain their energy late in games. She predicted this year’s matchup will be different.
“[Dupree’s] a very good player,” Boothe said. “She can score inside at will sometimes. She battled through an injury she had her freshman year to become what she is, which is pretty impressive. This year’s outcome should be a little different.”
If the Owls beat Xavier on Sunday and finish the weekend still unbeaten in the A-10, the team has a good chance of concluding the regular season that way. Of the Owls seven remaining opponents, just one has a winning conference record (Massachusetts). The combined conference record of those opponents is 17-29.
Still, Jordan said looking ahead isn’t an option for the Owls.
“We’re being hunted. We’re not the hunter anymore,” Jordan said of the team’s top 25 ranking. “We can’t stop and digest it all. It’s rewarding but we have to get better from it. [Otherwise,] that’s how you get complacent and you get beat.”
TOP 25 UPDATE
Temple cracked the Associated Press Top 25 poll this week, capturing the first ranking in program history. The Owls entered at No. 24. In addition, they claimed a spot in the ESPN/USA Today poll, taking the No. 25 spot.
Dupree said the ranking has its advantages, but her coach’s increased intensity hasn’t been one of them.
“[Staley] said she can go at us harder than she normally does in practice because we’re ranked,” Dupree said. “When you’re ranked you have to play harder. Everyone’s coming to get you. And that’s what [Staley] keeps telling us.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com. Jonathan Campbell contributed to this story.