Hairston's helpers push Owls into a matchup with Duke

Posted: March 20, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. - Temple is still alive in the NCAA women's basketball tournament - with a date against No. 1 Duke today - because the Owls have found players to help star forward Kamesha Hairston.

Guards Fatima Maddox and Ashley Morris played a big role Sunday night when the eighth-seeded Owls rallied to nip ninth-seeded Nebraska, 64-61, in a first-round game at the RBC Center.

This marks the second time in five NCAA appearances under coach Dawn Staley that Temple (25-7) has survived the first round.

Morris, a 5-foot-5 junior, made a huge three-point play with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left to bring Temple within a point of the Cornhuskers at 59-58.

Then Lady Comfort, who scored 15 points, connected from inside 40 seconds later as the Owls regained the lead.

Maddox, a senior who scored a team-high 18 points, hit four straight fouls shots in the final minute, including two with 20 seconds left, to eliminate Nebraska (22-10).

The Cornhuskers' Kiera Hardy, who had a game-high 23 points, tossed a desperation three-point attempt way off the mark as time expired.

"Those were the biggest [free throws] of my career," said Maddox, a native of Colorado Springs who transferred from New Mexico two years ago. "I knew I had to hit those. It could have been my last game."

Instead, Temple moves on to meet the overall top seed in the tournament.

The Blue Devils (31-1) have a strong inside-outside attack with shot-blocking 6-7 senior center Alison Bales and point guard Lindsey Harding, a national player-of-the-year candidate. Sophomore guard Abby Waner is a deep threat.

"The pressure is all on them," Staley said. "Our kids are going to come out and we're going to fight and scratch and claw to stay in the basketball game. If it's close, we're going to put ourselves in a position to win it – that's for sure."

That's the same formula that worked against Nebraska. Temple took a 12-point lead in the first half, but a 13-0 run helped Nebraska to a slim 30-29 lead at halftime.

"I remember in the huddle, Coach said, 'Don't be denied,' so we took that onto the court and played as hard as we could," Maddox said after the game.

"Sunday night was one of the moments I've always dreamed about, being able to play in the big game and to produce and help my team win," she said yesterday.

Morris, a former star at Central High, said she has had an up-and-down relationship with Staley in her two years at Temple.

"It's an experience," Morris said. "Since I've been here, I've had it rough because I'm a point guard. She's trying to get me to learn and think the way she would think, and it's hard to think the way she would think because she was so good at what she did.

"But she has a lot to teach me and I need to be like a sponge. Because once I get it, I'll have it forever."

Staley complimented Morris.

"She is a Philadelphia guard," the coach said. "She is me; I just learned a little quicker than she did. . . ."

"Ashley is a little stubborn in wanting to do things her way, but I thought Sunday she changed the complexion of the game."

The attendance for the Nebraska game was listed at 4,226. More people should be in the stands for today's 5 p.m. game with Duke, whose campus is in nearby Durham.

"I'm in favor of neutral sites, but something has to be done," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I hate seeing those empty seats on TV."

Baylor (26-7) will meet North Carolina State (24-9), the host school, in a second-round matchup tonight at 7:30.


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

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