PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Amber Harris had 26 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 6 Xavier beat Temple 73-66 on Sunday to clinch the top seed in the Atlantic 10 championship.
Ta’Shia Phillips added 18 points and 15 rebounds for her 18th double-double of the season for the Musketeers. With the victory, Xavier (25-2, 14-0) became the first school in Atlantic 10 history to finish unbeaten in conference play for consecutive years.
The Musketeers have bigger goals in mind than just winning their third straight conference title. They return four starters back from last season’s team that advanced to the NCAA tournament Sacramento regional final before falling at the buzzer to Stanford.
Shey Peddy scored 24 and Qwedia Wallace added 22 for Temple (22-7, 13-1), which saw its 15-game winning streak snapped. It was the school’s longest since 2004-05 when the Owls won 25 straight.
Leading 52-51 with 10:48 left in the game, Xavier turned up its defense by holding Temple without a point for the next 7 minutes. Harris and Phillips combined for six of the Musketeers’ eight points during that span. The Owls missed eight shots and had four turnovers during the drought.
Marli Bennett’s layup with 3:47 left finally ended the scoreless stretch, but it could only get Temple within 60-53.
The Musketeers extended their lead to 12 and the Owls closed to 69-64 with 20 seconds left. Wallace hit a 3-pointer that was the 155th of her career, breaking the school record.
That was as close as they could get as Xavier hit its free throws down the stretch.
Xavier has now won 43 of its last 44 regular season conference games with the lone loss coming at Temple on Feb. 25, 2009.
This was the second time in the past five seasons that the conference regular season championship came down to the final game with two unbeaten teams. Temple also lost that game, falling to George Washington in 2007.
Unlike last season when these two teams met with the Atlantic 10 tournament championship at stake, Temple got off to a quick start. Last year, the Owls found themselves down 14-0 before rallying and losing in overtime.
On Sunday, they scored the first eight points. After Xavier cut it to 8-5, Temple had the next seven capped by Peddy’s one-handed fling to just beat the 30-second shot clock.
But that just seemed to wake up the Musketeers, who went on a 19-4 run over the next 8 minutes. A three-point play by Harris and consecutive 3-pointers by Katie Rutan closed the spurt, giving Xavier a 24-19 lead.
The Owls tied it at 24 before the Musketeers scored the next eight points.
Xavier led 32-24 with 2:59 left in the half before Wallace took over, scoring seven straight points to bring the Owls within 32-31. She started her personal run with a 3-pointer that tied the senior with Stacey Smalls for Temple’s record of 154.
The Musketeers led 35-32 at the break.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)