Dupree is three-time tourney most outstanding player

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Candice Dupree closed out another Atlantic 10 tournament the only way she knows how: With arms of full of trophies, strands of clipped net in her hand and an NCAA Tournament berth for Temple on the way.

Dupree scored 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and was named the A-10 tournament's Most Outstanding Player for the third straight season as Temple (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) posted a 59-54 victory over George Washington in the championship game Monday night.

The Owls won the conference tourney title in all three of Dupree's full seasons with Temple.

"We just wanted it real bad," said Dupree, who did not play in the tournament as a freshman because of a foot injury. "We knew it was going to be the third in a row."

After making the NCAA Tournament only once in team history entering this decade, Owls coach Dawn Staley has led the program to unprecedented success. The Owls (24-7) are in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year and won the tournament for the fourth
time in the last five seasons. Staley's first season in 2000-01 was the only one without postseason play.

Kamesha Hariston added 18 points for the Owls, who also beat George Washington in last year's championship game. With the men's program needing its own A-10 tourney win to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, the women's program has
become Temple's most successful in basketball.

"We have aspirations of becoming a contender for a national championship, but you have to take really small steps and winning the Atlantic 10 championship is one way of taking those steps," Staley said. "But you have to use it and go further and further in the NCAA Tournament."

Kimberly Beck scored 21 points for the top-seeded Colonials (22-8). With 12 tournament appearances since 1991 and three wins this season over Top-25 teams, the Colonials have likely done enough to earn an at-large bid.

"We went out and played everybody we could," George Washington coach Joe McKeown said. "I think we're in pretty good shape. Now it's a matter of where you're going to end up playing."

Two of those regular-season victories over ranked teams, though, came against Temple. Not this time. Not with Dupree carrying the third-seeded Owls like she has in each of the last three A-10 tournaments.

Dupree, Hariston and a stifling defense helped the Owls pull away in the final minutes of what had been a very tight game. Dupree and Hariston combined for nine points during an 11-0 run that gave the Owls a 54-43 lead.

"I was going to do anything I had to do, it didn't matter," Hariston said. "I think I had more energy. I think I wanted it more than they did."

George Washington was held without a field goal for just over seven minutes during that run and a second technical foul and fifth personal on Jessica Simmonds allowed the Owls to sink three of four free throws.

After George Washington closed within eight, Dupree got the ball on the low block, spun around and sank a jumper with a little more than a minute left that helped seal the win.

"They made plays, they made shots, they defended well when they had to," McKeown said.

Temple is only the second team in A-10 history to win three straight tournament titles, joining Penn State (1983-87).

Dupree finished the tournament with 71 points and 26 rebounds and joined Rutgers' Sue Wicks (1986-88) as the only players to win three straight outstanding player awards. Wicks shared the award in 1987.

"When she got the ball, we did want to double-down on her and limit her touches," Beck said. "You can only hold her for so long. She's going to get her points. She's a good player."

With a small, spirited crowd rallying them on, Temple was first to take control midway through the second half. Hariston fought through the paint, was fouled on a basket and sank the free throw for a 35-31 lead.

Dupree scored six of Temple's next eight points and got the lead to 43-35.

The Colonials used an 8-0 that tied the score. After missing four straight free throws, the Owls finally went ahead for good when Shenita Landry sank one to end the scoring drought.