Playing on their home-court in the NCAA Tournament wasn’t just an advantage for the Owls, it was a gift placed in their laps. And they dropped it
Temple lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Texas Christian University 70-57 on Saturday, snapping an eight-game home winning streak.
“When you go on the road there are critical stages to get the crowd out of the game,” TCU coach Jeff Mittie said. “Temple hasn’t lost that often [on their home court] and I thought our team made those plays when they needed to.”
In order to frazzle the Horned Frogs, the Owls kept things at a fast pace at both ends of the court. The Owls did not waste any time on offense, scoring the game’s first points in six seconds. The Horned Frogs, who have advanced to the second round of the Big Dance the last four years, kept up as the teams were tied 10 times throughout the first half alone.
“If we keep games close, we can almost always coach our way through it,” Temple coach Dawn Staley said. “We’re still young in this. We’re still inexperienced. If we are in this again, we will get past the first round. I know it.”
When sophomore center Candice Dupree, who led Temple with 14 points, started to see double-teams, junior forward Ari Moore stepped up. Moore became an offensive threat that TCU struggled to defend. She had a team-high 16 points. With Dupree getting extra attention, Moore drove the lane with ease as the Owls trailed by just four at the break.
“Coach always likes straight lines to the basket because no one can guard that,” Moore said. “It was hard to pass today so I was trying to draw the hard fouls and hit the big baskets.”
But what Moore provided for the Owls, TCU reserve guard Natasha Lacy gave right back. Lacy was effective off the bench, scoring all but two of her 12 points in the second half.
“[Lacy] plays older than she is,” said guard Ebony Shaw of her teammate. “She pushes the ball well and she hit her free throws down the stretch. She is a good freshman point guard.”
In the second half the Owls (21-10) struggled to keep up. On three different occasions they held one-point leads, but were unable to extend them.
After Temple freshman guard Kamesha Hairston’s lay-up at 7:26, the Owls would lose control of things. Fueled by four Temple turnovers, TCU (25-6) went on a 7-0 run to take back the lead and would not look back.
“We knew that [TCU] was capable of putting points on the board,” Staley said. “They really took advantage of driving the ball down our throats. It wasn’t our night tonight. You would think that it would have been but it definitely wasn’t.”
The Horned Frogs were led by their formidable center Sandora Irvin who finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Shaw also finished with a double-double, posting 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
With the loss, the Owls record in the NCAA tournament dropped to 1-3 overall. Their only Tournament win came during the 1988-89 season when they defeated Holy Cross at McGonigle Hall.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.