Temple women win NCAA opener

Posted: March 19, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. - Temple got its first order of business accomplished tonight in the NCAA women's basketball tournament by beating ninth-seeded Nebraska, 64-61, in a Greensboro Regional first-round game at the RBC Center.

Fatima Maddox wrapped up the victory for Temple by hitting four straight foul shots in the game's final 56.8 seconds.

The eighth-seeded Owls (25-7) will move to the national spotlight in the next round Tuesday night by meeting No. 1 Duke (31-1).

The Blue Devils advanced earlier during the evening doubleheader by zipping past 16th-seeded Holy Cross, 81-44. The Patriot League's surprise champion finished its season at 15-18.

Although Temple's squad may be considered youthful, the Owls have experience playing against Atlantic Coast Conference schools, particularly those ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Coach Dawn Staley's bunch met defending national champion Maryland in December at the Liacouras Center and lost, 77-66.

The Terrapins, who were unbeaten at the time, have since been replaced in stature by Duke, which finished first in the final Associated Press poll of the season.

"They're very balanced and they can do a lot of things," Temple coach Dawn Staley said after seeing the Blue Devils in person yesterday.

For the moment, Staley should be pleased with the accomplishment of Temple in its first meeting with the Cornhuskers (22-10) of the Big Twelve.

The triumph was only Temple's second NCAA opening-round victory in five appearances since Staley took charge of the program in the spring of 2000.

The win helped erase the painful memory of last season's quick bounce by America East champion Hartford, as well as the recent 54-53 loss to Xavier in the Atlantic Ten semifinals that stopped the Owls' string of conference titles at three.

Maddox scored 18 points to lead the Owls. Lady Comfort contributed 15 points and Kamesha Hairston had 12. Kiera Hardy scored 23 for the Cornhuskers.

"Temple is extremely athletic," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. ". . . Temple runs a lot of sets. You'll see them call almost every single play. It's a set play. Dawn knows exactly who she wants to get the ball to - and when and where."

The Owls' major difficulty in their quick NCAA exit a year ago was the lack of help from other players when the opposition keyed on Hairston.

Temple seemed to overcome that deficiency in the first half.

Trailing by 7-4 early in the game, the Owls managed to take control with tenacious defense and key shooting, particularly from Maddox.

Comfort scored on a three-point play, and Maddox then hit two outside shots to put Temple ahead, 11-7, with 15 minutes, 30 seconds left in the half.

Nebraska scored baskets on inside shots from Danielle Page and T.K. LaFleur sandwiched around a field goal by Maddox as Temple stayed in front, 13-11.

The Owls launched a 14-4 run over the next six minutes, building a 27-15 lead with 7:13 left in the half.

A 13-0 run by the Cornhuskers as Hardy began to connect carried Nebraska to a 28-27 lead with 2:29 left until intermission.

Temple got the lead back as Shanita Landry hit two of four foul shots for a 29-28 lead with 1:37 left.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

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