The Temple University Owls claimed the Big 5 women’s basketball title last night with a win over the University of Pennsylvania Quakers at the historic Palestra. This is the Owls’ tenth Big 5 championship and their first since the 2010-2011 season.
The Owls jumped out to a 9-3 lead before the Quakers fought back to finish the first quarter down by one, 14-13. Temple started the second quarter with a 10-0 run, relying heavily on their rebounding skills to control the pace of the game. As time expired in the first half, Penn senior Sydney Stapanovich hit a short jump shot to pull within six points of the Owls, 35-29.
The Quakers carried their momentum into the second half, ending the third quarter down by only one point, 47-46. In the fourth quarter, Penn senior Kasey Chambers sunk a 3-point shot to put her team up 49-48 with just over six minutes left in the game. After three more lead changes, Temple extended their lead by seven. In the final minute, Penn had a 3-point basket called back for a foul on the floor. The reaction from the bench earned Penn a technical foul, allowing Temple to secure victory, 63-53.
With this win in the final Big 5 match-up of the season, the Temple women extend their win steak to 12 games. Their overall record is 16-4. The Owls recent success has not gone unnoticed by the Associated Press or the USA Today coaches rankings, in which the team ranks just outside of the top 25.
But both the Temple women’s win streak and their chance to break into the top 25 rest on two tough games against nationally ranked, American Athletic Conference opponents in the upcoming week: the South Florida Bulls on Sunday, January 29 and the Connecticut Huskies on Wednesday, February 1. No doubt the Owls will look to senior Feyonda Fitzgerald – whose performance thus far has earned her a spot on the mid-season watch list for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for Women’s National Player of the Year – to lead the team to victory.
Despite their loss to the Owls, the Quakers remain atop the Ivy League with a 3-0 conference record and a 9-6 record overall. Like Temple, Penn is preparing for a tough match-up in the upcoming week, against conference rival Harvard on Friday, February 3. Harvard has won their last 14 games.
The Villanova University Wildcats, St. Joseph’s University Hawks, and La Salle University Explorers are the other members of the Philadelphia Big 5. Villanova ended 2nd in the Big 5, with a 3-1 record, and is currently 4th in the Big East with a 6-3 conference record. St. Joe’s and La Salle are tied for 5th in the Atlantic 10 with 5-3 records. St. Joe’s ended with a better record in the Big 5 (2-2) compared to La Salle (1-3) but has a worse overall record (8-12) compared to La Salle (12-8).
Finally, no article about the rivalries in the Big 5 would be complete without an honorable mention of the City 6 – the informal group of D1 schools in Philadelphia that includes the Drexel University Dragons. The Drexel women are currently tied for 2nd in the Colonial Athletic Association with the James Madison University Dukes, to whom they lost the CAA championship last year. The Dragons and the Dukes meet tomorrow, January 27 to break the tie.
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