Courtnie Latham can’t forget Tulane’s 72-54 home loss to Temple on Jan. 26.
The loss, with more difficult American Athletic Conference games after that against No. 1 Connecticut and at No. 19 South Florida, sent the Green Wave spiralling from second place to fifth in the league.
“I remember (Temple) had a lot of intensity,” the Tulane guard said. “Their traps were effective, and their rotations were right to where you would look (for the next pass). They were just very active.”
The win enabled the Owls to leapfrog from third to second in the conference. On Tuesday in Philadelphia, the Green Wave (19-8, 10-5), back in the thick of things after a three-game winning streak and some fortuitous developments, can tie Temple (17-9, 11-4) in third place behind UConn (15-0) and South Florida (12-3) as the season winds down.
“We clinched a bye (Saturday) in the conference tournament, but this is a big game because of how the seedings could go,” Latham said. “Plus we just want to win, especially after how we played the last time.”
The Owls took the ball out of the hands of Wave point guard Leslie Vorpahl and shooting guard Kolby Morgan by pressuring them with the quick Alliya Butts and Feyonda Fitzgerald as taller, front-court players came over to double-team. Tulane set picks to try to free Vorpahl and Morgan, but that only brought Temple’s athletic forwards to them.
With others forced to handle the ball and score more, Tulane had 23 turnovers, off which Temple scored 28 points. Latham, who often serves as a point forward to set up Vorpahl and Morgan to shoot, had four turnovers and shot 1-of-4. Latham likely will be key if the Green Wave is to win this time.
“I want to cut down on my turnovers and just be more aggressive,” she said. “I have to make them guard me more, then I can get the ball to teammates for baskets. If they don’t guard me, I’ve got to look to shoot.”
Coach Lisa Stockton said having a third ball-handler will be necessary.
“I think it’s really critical to have another ball-handler to handle that kind of pressure,” Stockton said. “She’ll be able to create.”
Forcing Temple to take the ball out of the net slows its fast break and its offensive rebounding; it had 18 in the first meeting. The Owls are third in the AAC in scoring (71.4 points per game) but sixth in shooting percentage (37.7 percent) in the 11-team conference.
“We need to stop them from getting into transition, because they are really fast,” Latham said.
Said Stockton: “Temple is not nearly as good against a defense that is set than they are in the open court.”
Temple also has had problems against teams that can score in the post, notably losing at SMU on Jan. 5.
The Owls have lost their past two games — 85-60 at home to UConn on Feb. 14 and 100-97 at Memphis in an NCAA record-tying five overtimes Thursday. Coming off that grueling game, Memphis (10-6) lost 97-87 at USF on Sunday.
After Temple, the Green Wave has games at UConn on Friday and at home against Cincinnati (4-11) on Monday before the conference tournament begins March 4. The Owls finish at USF on Saturday and against Central Florida (3-13) on Monday.
Memphis, which won at home against Tulane on Jan. 3, ends the season against East Carolina (4-11) and Houston (1-14).