By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
The Temple Owls, trailing by two points early in the fourth quarter, increased the defensive pressure down the stretch and ran past UTSA 71-58 Saturday in the Roadrunners’ inaugural game of women’s basketball in the American Athletic Conference.
In a game played in front of an announced crowd of 1,324 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, UTSA just didn’t play well enough in crunch time to win in the AAC opener for both teams.
The Roadrunners, who reached the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament last March, had their chances. They trailed by five points going into the fourth quarter, came out with confidence and tallied seven straight to take a 53-51 lead.
From there, the Owls started to force the Roadrunners into mistakes. Temple blocked a shot, defended well in the paint to draw an offensive foul, and then forced two more turnovers to spark a 13-2 run.
Temple guard Tiarra East took advantage of the mistakes, hitting a long three and scoring seven points overall during the critical run.
Sidney Love stopped the Owls’ momentum briefly when she drove to the bucket, drew a foul and hit a free throw to bring the Roadrunners to within 64-58 with 4:10 remaining. Love’s defensive pressure then forced a 10-second violation at halfcourt.
But with momentum turning, UTSA committed the first of two straight turnovers, leading to four straight Temple points from guard Terriyonna Gary.
At that juncture, Temple had assumed complete control of the game, leading by 10. Gary, who scored six points in the fourth period, knocked down two free throws with with 2:53 remaining to make it 68-58. In all, UTSA committed nine of its 20 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
UTSA coach Karen Aston credited Temple’s play in the backcourt as a key factor in the game’s outcome.
“Their guards were tough,” Aston said on the team’s radio broadcast. “(They had) tough-minded guards, with the ability to rise up and make really tough shots.
“You know, right now, we don’t have that. We’re dependent on a couple of our guards right now to make a whole lot of plays.
“We just really need to keep trying to develop our kids and see if we can get some more to contribute. We just don’t have enough right now on the perimeter that can counteract that kind of activity.
“I mean, they had two guards (Gary and Tristen Taylor) come off the bench and make big shots.”
As a team, the Owls did a good job as they limited offensive production from the Roadrunners’ guard trio of Love, Kyra White and Aysia Proctor. Together, the three were pressured into shooting 11 of 34 from the field.
White, a senior, led the Roadrunners with 16 points, three rebounds and three assists. Love was held to eight points and Proctor seven. UTSA starting center Elyssa Coleman finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Off the bench, forward Idara Udo scored 10.
Gary, a Temple senior from Brooksville, Fla., led the Owls in scoring with 14 points in 23 minutes off the bench. She knocked down five of eight from the floor.
Starting guard Aleah Nelson produced 13 points and four assists, while forward Rayne Tucker had a double double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
East, another backcourt starter, had 11 points and four steals. Forward Ines Parker was also a defensive pest with two steals, to go along with 10 points.
UTSA 6-6, 0-1
Temple 7-6, 1-0
UTSA at East Carolina, Tuesday, 5 p.m.
Injured UTSA forward Jordyn Jenkins, the 2022-23 Player of the Year in Conference USA, hasn’t played this season. The 6-foot forward is rehabilitating a knee injury … After losing at Temple, another bit of adversity awaits the Roadrunners. They’re scheduled to return to San Antonio and then fly out Monday to North Carolina, where they will play on Tuesday in Greenville against the East Carolina Pirates. East Carolina won the AAC postseason title last year and advanced to the NCAA tournament.