No. 5 Texas A&M 71, Temple 59

Temple discovered it can play with the nation’s elite. The Owls

just found out a little too late.

Temple used a 22-6 run to cut a second-half 20-point deficit to

four points, but No. 5 Texas A&M pulled away for a 71-59

victory in the Junkanoo Jam on Friday.

”When you play a team like Texas A&M, the defending

champions, sometimes there are some jitters,” Temple head coach

Tonya Cardoza said. ”I think once we realized we can play with

them, we settled down and did what our game plan was. To start, we

turned the ball over and missed shots. We weren’t really sure of

ourselves. Once we settled down, we were able to play our type of

basketball.”

Adaora Elonu scored a career-high 23 to lead Texas A&M into

Saturday’s championship game of the Lucaya Division of the Junkanoo

Jam. Texas A&M (5-0) plays Iowa (4-1) for the title. Temple

(2-3) takes on St. John’s (2-3) in the consolation game.

Tyra White scored 14 points for the Aggies, Sydney Carter added

12 points and Kelsey Bone scored 10 points.

B.J. Williams led Temple with 19 points, and Kristen McCarthy

scored 16.

Temple committed 10 turnovers before Texas A&M committed one

turnover, and fell behind, 23-8. The Aggies led 36-24 at

halftime.

Texas A&M opened up the second half with a 12-4 run and led

by 20 points, 48-28. Temple responded with back-to-back 3’s against

the A&M zone, triggering what turned out to be a 22-6 run.

Temple closed to four points at 54-50 on a baseline runner by

Kristen McCarthy with 8:43 left in the game. McCarthy was fouled on

the play, but missed the free throw.

After a timeout by the Aggies, Bone powered inside to put the

brakes on the Owls’ run, making it 56-50. A put-back by Elonu and a

pair of free throws by bone gave the Aggies a 10-point cushion,

60-50, with 6:39 left in the game.

Temple once again fought back, closing a 12-point deficit to

62-58 on a free throw by Victoria Macauley, but Carter rattled in a

jumper from the corner with 2:15 left to give Texas A&M a 64-58

lead. A pair of free throws by Adrienne Pratcher made it 66-58, and

then the Aggies cashed in on a technical foul on Cardoza to build a

70-58 lead. After that, the Aggies maintained the upperhand.

”We did everything right, we just didn’t get any calls,”

Cardoza said of her team’s second-half comeback. ”I think our guys

did a really good job of boxing out and doing the right things.

Things just didn’t go our way down the stretch. I thought our guys

fought extremely hard. We pulled within four points, but we

couldn’t catch a break, and you need a break. You’re playing

against a (top five) team in the country, you need a break

sometimes, and we didn’t get any breaks. I deserved the technical,

but (the officials) deserved to hear me, too.”

Blair said that defense was the key for the Aggies.

Defense basically won it for us in the second half,” Texas

A&M coach Gary Blair said. ”Carter, White and Elonu made some

plays. Temple is a team that will win 20, 25 games a year. They

play a hard schedule and are well coached. This was exactly the

type of team we needed to play, because we had to work hard.

”It was 48-28, and I started to play some other kids, and my

bench really didn’t keep the same intensity,” Blair said of losing

a 20-point lead. ”When Carter and Tyra and Pratcher and Adaora got

a little tired, I really didn’t have an answer coming off the

bench. But if I want to play that much pressure defense, it starts

affecting your shot. We started short-arming a few.”

Elonu wounded Temple with mid-range jumpers, taking advantage of

a sagging Owls’ defense. The 6-foot-1 senior forward helped the

Aggies turn back the Owls in the clutch.

”Coach said in the pre-game, that we have to play like a mature

team,” Elonu said. ”It came down to they made a run, and coach

reminded us in the huddle, this was the time when we needed to be

mature and show what we’re capable of. I think we did a pretty good

job of that and getting the victory.

”It was pretty calm, surprisingly, I guess just because it’s

early in the season,” Elonu said of the timeout after Temple

closed to four points. ”Once (coach) put us back in the press, it

picked up a lot more. That’s what we really want to do. We want to

be up there pressuring, not waiting back in a zone. I think that

really change the dynamic of the game and get back in it and get a

comfortable lead.”