In the fleeting moments of the game, the women’s basketball team’s season hung in the balance.
A last-second heave from sophomore guard Alliya Butts took an unfavorable bounce off the rim in Ann Arbor, Michigan last night, and the final buzzer sounded before the Owls could manage another look.
Butts’ miss was preceded by five persistent shots and four offensive rebounds from the University of Michigan in one possession, which resulted in the game-winning basket en route to a 77-76 win for the Wolverines against the Owls in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals.
For the second straight season, Temple was eliminated from the WNIT.
For one of the two departing seniors, the missed shot signified the end of a career.
“It hurts, obviously,” senior guard Erica Covile said. “You never expect it to end like that, but it has to come to an end at some point.”
Michigan freshman center Hallie Thome scored the eventual game-winning basket with eight seconds left after grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring a layup.The Wolverines grabbed 26 offensive rebounds in the game.
“All season we have been competing and fighting, changing our style, but to be honest I thought we lost on 50-50 balls,” coach Tonya Cardoza said.
This year’s tournament marked the third time in Cardoza’s eight seasons she went to the WNIT. The first time came in the 2011-12 season when Temple lost to Syracuse University 82-68 in McGonigle Hall.
Exactly a year ago today, Temple defeated Middle Tennessee State University 69-57 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in the WNIT quarterfinals. Temple advanced to the semifinals where it fell on the road to West Virginia University 66-58 in overtime three days later.
“It is the similar sense that we are on the road again in the WNIT,” Cardoza said comparing last night’s loss to the loss to West Virginia. “It is a different mindset definitely, being aggressive. We weren’t the underdogs this year, and we just fell a little short.”
“I felt like we have grown a lot, but this is almost like déjà vu where we lost the game at the last minute,” sophomore guard Donnaizha Fountain said following yesterday’s loss about the 2015 defeat.
In the opening round of this year’s WNIT, Temple defeated Drexel 74-66 inside the Daskalakis Athletic Center. After losing to Quinnipiac University 58-56 in the regular season, Temple defeated the Bobcats 64-62 in the second round while on the road.
In Temple’s final victory of the season, the Owls topped Ohio University 75-61 on Thursday in McGonigle Hall. The team finished the year with a 23-12 record following last night’s loss.
Once the squad settled in the locker room in the Crisler Center following the game, Cardoza made sure to treat her speech like any other locker-room remarks.
“It is just another game,” Cardoza said. “I didn’t want to treat it differently than other post-game talk.”
“I am definitely proud of my guys,” she added. “I felt like we were fighters and no matter what the situation, we continued to fight. We just came up short.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.