After losing the opening tip to Florida State University, Temple knew it would be in for a battle against the Seminoles’ size in its game against the No. 13 team in the AP Top 25 Poll Sunday at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Florida.
Florida State’s starting lineup included 6-foot-4-inch senior center Adut Bulgak on the tip, while Temple’s two 6-foot-4-inch players, junior center Taylor Robinson and junior center Safiya Martin, sat on the bench and did not play until the final minutes of Saturday’s 75-47 loss.
“They are tough to play against, especially when we have five guards in [the game],” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “The whole second half we spread out and let them get inside the paint. Once they started scoring and we couldn’t score, it was just a domino effect.”
Temple (3-4) lost by a combined 19 points in its three losses prior to its game against Florida State. The 28-point loss to the Seminoles was the team’s largest defeat since an 83-49 loss to Connecticut Feb. 1 last season.
In Temple’s first ranked matchup of the season, Florida State outrebounded the Owls 45-29 and scored 19 more second-chance points, 23-4.
“We gave up way too many second chance points,” Cardoza said. “I felt like our game plan was working—packing in it and making them shoot from the outside. We did a really good job on trying to put our body on them and pushing them back, but they had a bunch of guys getting those second chance points.”
Offensively, the Owls struggled without production from their two top scorers. Both sophomore guard Alliya Butts, who is averaging 14.8 points this season, and junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, who is ranked No. 14 in Division I in points per game with 22.2 points, had season lows Sunday.
Butts finished without any points on 0-for-10 shooting in 24 minutes of play, and Fitzgerald finished with 5 points, shooting 2-for-9 from the field. The last two times Butts did not score any points were Dec. 18, 2014 against Howard University and Dec. 14, 2014 against Florida State.
“In the first half, neither of them could really score, but other guys were stepping up,” Cardoza said. “When they started playing a lot of zone, we didn’t see those same guys that were open in their sweet spots, and we settled. A couple times Alliya was open, but sometimes [Butts and Fitzgerald] forced shots.”
In the first quarter, transfer junior forward Donnaizha Fountain, who received her second consecutive start over Martin, kept the Owls in the game, scoring seven of Temple’s first 10 points.
Fitzgerald’s first points of the game came on a buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter to put the Owls up 20-18.
Temple continued its momentum heading into the second quarter. The Owls led 28-18 and held the Seminoles without a field goal until Florida State’s senior guard Emiah Bingley hit a 3-pointer with 4:40 remaining to cut Temples lead into single digits. That field goal spirited the Seminoles to close in on a 14-2 run to lead the Owls 34-30 at halftime.
“For those 20 minutes, we were very confident, and it felt like we could win the basketball game,” Cardoza said. “What made it successful for us in the first half was that we moved the ball around well.”
For most of the second half, Temple could not contain sophomore forward Shakayla Thomas, who had a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds. The Seminoles pulled away from the Owls in the third quarter, outscoring them 20-4 and extending their lead by double digits.
“I don’t really think we were running out of gas,” Cardoza said. “We gave up easy opportunities in transition on the offensive end. When they went on a run, we couldn’t match it, and we were just trying to sustain until the end of the half.”
Martin didn’t check in until the Owls trailed 62-36 with 7:43 remaining in the game. Martin started the team’s first five games this season, but since then, she has only played eight minutes.
“She’s been walking around in a boot, but that’s just outside and not on the court,” Cardoza said. “But there’s nothing wrong with her.”
Mark McCormick can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MarkJMcCormick.