UNCASVILLE, CT. 3/7/2020 – The Temple Owls came into this game with the mindset that if the Connecticut Huskies were going to be defeated, let it be us that does it. Early in the game that mindset was holding. Then freshman forward Aubrey Griffin entered the game and gave the Huskies the spark they needed. UConn got going and won 94 – 61 to advance to the semifinal round of the American Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Huskies extended their American record to 137 – 0 including post season.
“The one thing about Aubrey is she is going to bring a certain energy level to the game,” said Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma. “She can impact the game defensively and she can impact the game offensively. She’s just active and she has the ability to go get the ball and not have the ball come to her. She goes and get it. She made a huge difference today. I thought this was one of Aubrey’s best games that she’s played all year.”
Griffin scored 15 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in 22 minutes of play subbing for Olivia Nelson-Ododa who got in early foul trouble. Griffin got the Owls into further foul trouble and made 11 of 17 from the charity stripe.
As a team Connecticut made 14 of 26 three-pointers which was two shy of their tournament record of 16 also set in 2017. And the Huskies went 15 of 37 from inside the arc.
“I think they came into transition early on and we were pushing the ball,” said UConn guard Chrystal Dangerfield. “When we push the ball the defense is scrambling to look for the rim and when you do that you leave the three point line open. After that we were able to move the ball around and then we found the open person.”
The Owls started off executing as planned and had a 9 – 2 lead three minutes into the game. But danger lurked as whistles were blowing in both directions. Temple lost two forwards to foul trouble and Olivia Nelson-Ododa had two as well. Enter Griffin.
“I know that first quarter we came out and did some really great things,” said Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza. “We talked about the wide-open shots we missed and that they were getting the same wide-open shots and making them. In the second quarter, Griffin came in and changed the entire game. She gave them the energy that they needed, got some offense rebounds, got to the free throw line and she was the spark that they needed.
In the first half she recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, 4 off the offensive glass. The Cherry and white had no answer. UConn led 15 – 13 after one, then regained their footing and exploded for 32 second quarter points, one shy of the tournament record of 33 they set in 2017.
The three-pointers started to fall as the Huskies drained 6 of 7 from distance on those 10 minutes, and raced out to a 47 – 28 halftime lead. UConn was hitting on all cylinders after that.
“The thing about them is once they start making them, it is going to be hard to keep up the scoring pace,” Cardoza said. “They threw that punch in the second quarter and we couldn’t recover.”
The Huskies had five other players score in double-figures led by Dangerfield with 22 points. She was 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. Megan Walker scored 17 points sinking half of her shots from beyond the arc. Anna Makurat had 14 points and was 3 of 5 from the three-point line, and she handed out a game-high 8 assists. Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Chrystyn Williams had 12 points each.
Mia Davis led Temple with 21 points, her 13th twenty-point game of the season. The junior forward was 8 of 14 from the field and went 5 of 6 from the line. Ashley Jones added 13 points and handed out 6 assists.
The Owls finish the season at 16 – 15. Will post-season await?
“We talked about that being our goal at the beginning of the season,” Cardoza said. “I felt like we let some games slip away that could have had us sitting here knowing that we were going to the postseason. Now, we left it in someone else’s hands. You don’t want to be sitting around leaving that decision in someone else’s hands. You should put in the work, know and be confident that what you have done is good enough. I feel like we put ourselves in a position to hope someone thinks that we were good enough to be there.”
“We are ending the season hoping we can have a postseason,” Davis said. “If we can’t we are come back better next year and work harder.”
The future will look different as Connecticut will join the Big East. It was the last chance for Temple to beat them in a conference game. Maybe the rivalry will continue in the future, a future the Owls hope will be bright.
“Now that they are leaving the conference, it is wide-open,” Cadroza said. “If we do what we are supposed to…get in the gym and work hard, we can be the new UConn of the American.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian