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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Temple Women's Basketball Secures Share of AAC Regular Season Title on Senior Night with Victory over FAU

By Josh Abrams (@jabrams1998) Photos: Ryan Nix, 03/10/24, 7:00PM EDT


Temple Women's Basketball Team Celebrates as AAC Regular Season Co-Champions.(Photo/ Ryan Nix for PSD)

(Videos/Interview: Josh Abrams

Photos: Ryan Nix)



Philadelphia -- The fourth-quarter clock reached all zeroes. The scoreboard showed 73-54 in favor of the Temple Owls Women's Basketball team over Florida Atlantic. 

A cast of cherry red and black ran onto the court to rejoice, and the refreshing feeling of making history had become more than just a dream. 

"We are champions," head coach Diane Richardson proclaimed. 

Temple WBB Post-Game Celebration - PSD Video by Ryan Nix

Temple WBB head coach Diane Richardson offers postgame thoughts, with departing seniors Aleah Nelson, Demi Washington & junior Tiarra East sitting in (Video/Josh Abrams)

First quarter action between FAU and Temple (Video/Josh Abrams)

Victory could not have presented itself at a more opportune time for the hosting Lady Owls (FAU - also called the Owls). It was senior night. A win would guarantee them at least a share of the American Athletic Conference and a top-three seed in the upcoming conference tournament in Fort Worth, Texas next week.

"It was a hard fought game," said Richardson. "(FAU) came in knowing that we had to play defense today. It's been our identity (during) the second part of the season. And today it won us a regular season championship." 

The last time Temple was able to call themselves conference regular season champions was 2008, when then-head coach and now-multiple time national champion at South Carolina, Dawn Staley, led the team to a 12-2 record in Atlantic-10 play. 

16 years later, they finish in a three-way tie for first in the newly-aligned American Athletic Conference, along with North Texas and Tulsa.

Wednesday night marked the final game played at the Liacouras Center for the five seniors whom Richardson started: Kendall CurrenceAleah NelsonDemi WashingtonRayne Tucker and Denise Solis

Even with an AAC title on the line, Richardson had to ensure she would not overlook the overarching importance of the entire day overall. 

"These seniors (and the teammates) were up for this game," said Richardson. "And it was more so about our seniors than it was for the championship because we have that kind of bond - playing for each other. We didn't want them to go out with a loss in Liacouras for their last game." 

It took Richardson and company some extra time to get from the court, to the locker room and finally the press conference room postgame. Understandably so; they deserved to celebrate for as long as they pleased and embrace a moment that doesn't come around very often. 

Soaking it all in as her head coach endlessly praised her team's effort, particularly on the defensive end, Washington got a chance to express just what the win meant for her and the Lady Owls. 

"It's a very special day," said Demi. "(My) family got to be here and watch, and (we won) a regular season championship; you can't ask for much more. I'm super grateful."

Temple was led offensively by Tarriyonna Gary's very efficient 20 points (7-10 FG including 6-7 from three-point range), while Tiarra East provided 17 points and a game-high six steals. Washington added 12 points while fellow senior Rayne Tucker stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. 

The turnaround from this Lady Owls team has been nothing short of remarkable. Richardson's first season at the helm ended with a measly 11-18 overall record and 6-10 showing in conference play, tied for eighth. One season later, she leads the team to their most wins in the regular season since 2016-17 (24-8) and, more importantly, a share of the conference title. 

Richardson knows the job is far from finished, and talks about what has kept Temple going throughout the season (Video/Josh Abrams)

Second quarter action: FAU's Janeta Rozentale grabs own miss and converts putback (Video/Josh Abrams)

All of that said, Richardson knows there is still work left to be complete. Safe to say; she's not wasting the opportunity to build off this win.

"We know that we're not done," Richardson said. "We're not going to slack up. We're not going to take it easy, because this is the (AAC) tournament, and everybody is going to bring their best... we are going to prepare like we always have." 

Third quarter highlights: teams exchange baskets as offenses start to heat up in second half (Video/Josh Abrams)

Highlights from fourth quarter: skies open for both offenses in free-flowing final frame (Video/Josh Abrams)

Temple earned a double-bye in the American Athletic Conference tournament, and their next game will be on Monday, March 11th at 9 PM, in the quarterfinals against an opponent to be determined.

In terms of seeding within the conference, #14 Tulane and #11 SMU meet in the second first round bout of the night on Saturday. #6 Charlotte awaits the winner of that game on Sunday. Whoever wins between Charlotte and SMU/Tulane will ultimately be playing the Owls on Monday night.