Temple senior guard/forward Wilashia Burleson has the size and aggressiveness to excel around the basket and the athletic ability to run the floor with the ball in her hands.
Tem-Cats sophomore guard Nyteria Colbert not only can score but also does a little bit of everything, including the “small things” not everyone notices, according to second-year coach RaShonta LeBlanc.
Together, they outscored Waco University 16-14 in the second half to help lead Temple to its second consecutive win to start the season.
Burleson produced a game-high 24 points, Colbert scored 15 and the Tem-Cats turned up their defensive intensity to limit turnover-plagued University to one fourth-quarter point as Temple earned a 57-39 victory Tuesday night at Wildcat Gym.
“We just came out strong,” Burleson said of the fourth quarter, in which Temple (2-0) scored 15 points and never allowed University (1-1) to make a field goal. “Coach was telling us, ‘Don’t give up. Fight to the finish.’ And that’s what we did. Our defense was more intense.”
LeBlanc liked what she saw.
“We’ve got to be that scrappy team. That’s got to be our ball,” said LeBlanc, whose squad got an energy boost from senior reserve Nicorria Noble.
The Tem-Cats led 28-25 at halftime after committing 15 turnovers to the Trojans’ 17, but Temple maintained its poise after intermission and outscored the cold-shooting visitors 29-14 in the final two quarters to pull away.
“At halftime, we had a little talk about turnovers and making free throws,” Colbert said. “And our bench got better, so that gave us more life.”
Junior guard Taliyah Johnson scored eight points for the Tem-Cats, highlighted by two third-quarter 3-pointers.
Senior forward Sheridan Gamble scored 17 points to pace University — a 22-win playoff squad last season — but no other player contributed more than seven. The Trojans trailed 42-38 entering the fourth but were shut out in the final period until Gamble’s free throw with 1:22 left, after Temple had surged to a 15-point lead.
“I just had to stay down and stay solid with her,” the 5-foot-10 Burleson said of guarding Gamble.
Temple committed at least six turnovers in each quarter and 27 overall, but LeBlanc said it was a product of the Tem-Cats’ up-tempo style and figures to improve as the season progresses.
“We’re going to force turnovers, and we’re going to turn the ball over because of the speed we want to play at,” LeBlanc said. “It’s just minimizing those fast-break turnovers and unforced turnovers. They’re looking for teammates. Hopefully by district, we’ll be where we need to be.”
Burleson (six steals) had the hot hand early, powering inside for a three-point play and then converting her steal into a difficult bank shot as Temple turned a 12-7 deficit into a 16-15 lead after one quarter. University made four 3s in the opening period but none after that.
Temple grabbed the lead for good at 22-20 on Colbert’s cutting scoop shot and took a 28-25 halftime advantage on Burleson’s 7-foot running jumper as the buzzer sounded.
“She’s a tough and dynamic player,” LeBlanc said of Burleson, a returning first-team All-District 12-6A player who’s in her fourth varsity season. “She brings energy.”
Burleson’s layup off an Aniah Hall pass put Temple up 37-28 midway through the third before University pulled within 42-38 going into the fourth. But Burleson’s 10-foot banker and 6-foot jumper created breathing room, then Colbert scored six points to seal the Tem-Cats’ win.
Temple begins the three-day Austin Bowie tournament against North Crowley at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Austin Akins, followed by Friday games against San Antonio Taft and Pflugerville Connally.