skip navigation

Temple WBB jumps to first place tie in AAC with win over Tulane

02/20/2024, 1:00am EST
By Owen McCue

By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

NORTH PHILADELPHIA — Temple’s postgame celebration Monday night trickled from the court to the locker room into the postgame press conference. Graduate guard Aleah Nelson came into the Al Shrier Media Room singing the Temple fight song flanked by four of her teammates.

The Owls’ 69-52 win over Tulane at the Liacouras Center continued the first three-game win streak of the season for a team that is enjoying life at the top of the American Athletic Conference.

With five regular season games left, the Owls are tied with North Texas for first place, chasing their first conference regular season title since 2011-12.

“A lot of fun,” Nelson said. “It’s fun. We had fun at the end of the game, just laughing, even with the band singing the fight song, in the locker room after a win. It’s good to be rewarded for all the hard work we put in during practice.”

Temple head coach Diane Richardson and the Owls are tied for first in the AAC. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)

This time last season the celebrations were few and far between as the Owls suffered through a six-game losing streak in February of head coach Diane Richardson’s first season. They finished the season at 11-18 (6-10 AAC)

Richardson started her coaching career at Towson seven years ago with a nine-win season. In year two, Richardson’s team won 20 games, clinching an NCAA Tournament berth with a conference tournament title.

“Deja Vu?” she quipped after Monday’s win.

It sure looks like a similar turnaround is in progress as the Owls have carved their place up near the top of a new-look American Athletic Conference that added six new teams in 2023-24.

Richardson’s team was 6-6 entering AAC play, but they’ve won seven of their last 10 with a pair of two-point losses to Memphis and SMU and a double overtime loss to Charlotte the only blemishes during the stretch of games. 

They haven’t been at the top of the conference standings this late in the season since the 2011-12 campaign.

“I think it’s trust,” Richardson said. “I trust them, and they trust me. We have a goal together to be No. 1 and to win the conference. We trust each other. They trust me and I trust them and they trust each other. That’s a great combination when you’re talking about going to battle.”

Nelson and graduate guard Demi Washington led a quarter of double-figure scorers with 16 apiece on Monday. Senior Tarriyona Gary and junior Tiarra East both scored 12.

The victory gave the Owls their most wins in conference play since 2020-21. Their 15th win Monday night marked the program’s most overall wins since 2019-20. The season is trending towards the Owls’ best since 2016-17, which was the last time they reached the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve worked hard all summer, all preseason to get to where we are right now,” Washington said. “We all believed it. Our whole team, we all believed it from the jump, so now we’re just putting everything together and proving to people that we are one of the best..."

She corrected herself.

“We are the best team in the league, and we’re going to continue to prove that the rest of the season.”

Washington arrived this season after four years at Vanderbilt. She was drawn to the personalities of the Owls who are helping them have so much “fun” this season.

“It was the players,” Washington said. “I could just tell how well they got along and stuck beside each other, and I knew I wanted to be part of a group like that and it shows. We’re a close bunch.”

That was apparent Monday night as Nelson came in singing the Temple fight song before all five starters riffed at the podium alongside Richardson. They couldn’t help chuckling at a few inside jokes in between questions.

Temple travels to UT-San Antonio on Thursday to face a Roadrunners squad that recently took down North Texas. The road trip continues Sunday in Houston at third place Rice, which is tied with UAB at 9-5 just a half game behind the Owls.

The Owls’ best finish since joining the AAC a decade ago was second place behind UConn in 2016-17 when they went 13-3. They haven’t finished better than fourth since.

“We’re not gonna let up,” Gary said. “We can’t let up. We’re at the finish line, so we might as well just finish it out strong.”

D-I Coverage:

HS Coverage:

Small-College News:

Recruiting News:

Tag(s): Home  Contributors  Owen McCue  College  Division I  Women's  Temple