The Lady Vols prevailed 52-48, but it took some inspired defensive play, specifically from senior Shyra Ely, to seal the outcome. Ely drew a charging call with Tennessee up by three with two minutes to go and then hit two free throws with 11 seconds left.
"Well I felt like I needed to do something, because I wasn't really producing offensively," said Ely, who scored eight points on 3-11 shooting, and added that she didn't want to allow her "offense to dictate my defense." She also had six steals and seven rebounds.
The offensive shortcomings of Tennessee left Summitt with little to say.
"No," said coach Pat Summitt when asked if she'd ever coached a team that had this much trouble scoring.
"I don't think so because we usually score," Ely said when asked the same question.
Temple coach Dawn Staley said the Owls "got some great looks" at the end of the game but either missed the shot or turned over the ball.
Temple forward Ari Moore, who missed a shot that would have tied the game, was visibly upset after the game.
"I was excited; I was nervous," Moore said. "I wanted to do it without charging into Jackson. I saw her right in front of me. I probably should have pump-faked. … I didn't do what I had to do, what I'm used to doing. It's very upsetting. I dreamed about that shot my whole life. There's going to be another shot. There's going to be another game. And I'm going to be OK."
Staley was proud of her team and grateful that Summitt was willing to start a home-and-home series with upstart Temple, which won the Atlantic 10 Conference last year and is favored to do so again.
"It's not often that you can come into a historical place like Knoxville and get a win," Staley said. "But I'm proud of our kids. We had ample opportunities to win the basketball game."
Summitt knows Tennessee, 4-1, escaped with a win against Temple, 2-2.
"I told our basketball team that we found enough defense to help us have a few more possessions," Summitt said. "I thought we started out the game with intensity, but we weren't very productive. I thought we were pushing tempo (but) we were not getting it into any type of organized offense to get the right people the basketball."
Summitt was disappointed in her starters, despite the fact she shook up the lineup by removing Ely and Tye'sha Fluker and replacing them with Brittany Jackson and Nicky Anosike to go along with Loree Moore, Shanna Zolman and Sidney Spencer. Summitt used Ely, Sybil Dosty, Jackson, Zolman and Moore to start the second half.
"We found a way to win, certainly wasn't very pretty," Summitt said. "Looks like we've done that a few times already this year. We have to figure out how we can get some of our key people that are getting a lot of good looks (to) knock down shots. Bottom line, gotta knock down shots."
Ely offered a wry bit of commentary about the offensive woes.
"I think that our shots are pretty much on the right track," she said. "I feel like our misses were good misses, if there's such a thing. It just goes back to getting in the gym and working on those little things so you can hit them in games."