Cardoza is ‘encouraged’ despite double-digit loss to UConn

Three of Temple’s top four scorers were freshmen in its 113-57 loss to Connecticut, which is ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, on Sunday at McGonigle Hall.

Freshman guard Desiree Oliver fights for a loose ball during Temple's 113-57 loss to Connecticut on Sunday at McGonigle Hall. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Coach Tonya Cardoza got more from Temple’s game than just the score. Even though the Owls lost by 56 points and gave up more than 100 points on Sunday against Connecticut, Cardoza found lots of positive takeaways from the game.

In Temple’s 113-57 loss to American Athletic Conference opponent Connecticut, which is ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Owls had the opportunity to play freshmen against a top team and practice defensive skills they had been working on recently.

“Yes, you might not see it in the score, but the attempt to do things that we haven’t been attempting to do in the past, I’m encouraged by that,” Cardoza said. “I’m hoping that is something that’s going to carry over because I feel like they even enjoyed it because they were helping each other out.”

The Owls (9-9, 1-5 The American) ended with three blocks and six steals, numbers that are higher than their average per game. Typically, Temple registers 2.1 blocks and 5.6 steals per game.

Three of Temple’s starters were freshmen. Forwards Mia Davis and Breanna Perry and guard Emani Mayo each played at least 27 minutes.

“Throwing freshmen out there and being able to compete against some of the best players in the country, you just want to go out there and compete, and I felt like we did,” Cardoza said. “We went out there and competed the best we could.”

Three of Temple’s top four scorers were also freshmen. Davis registered a team-high 19 points, one steal, one block and four rebounds, which tied for the team-high.

“It feels good to have a good game against the number one team in the country because I’ve always looked up to them as a child and now I finally get an opportunity to play against them,” Davis said.

Perry also had four rebounds and contributed seven points. Freshman guard Desiree Oliver played her first game since the beginning of December when she was out with an injury. In her return, Oliver scored five points and dished four assists in 29 minutes.

“Desiree changes a lot,” Cardoza said. She changes the tempo of the game, and she’s another guy that just wants to go out there and get things done.”

The only other Owl to score in double digits was senior guard Tanaya Atkinson, who recorded 15 points and a team-high two steals.

“It’s just another good opportunity,” Atkinson said. “You’re playing against the very best, and I feel like it shows you what you can work on and what you’re doing well.”

Conversely, the Huskies had six players who scored in double digits. They shot 44-for-69, or 63.8 percent. They shot 61.5 percent on 3-pointers, making eight of 11 attempts.

The Owls didn’t fare as well, going 37.5 percent from the field and making just 6-of-22 3-point attempts. Temple was also outrebounded 41-22 by Connecticut.

The Huskies’ height contributed to Temple’s lack of rebounds and points in the paint, as the Owls managed 26 points in the paint to Connecticut’s 52.

“Our starting front court is [5 feet, 9 inches], [5 feet, 9 inches] and [5 feet, 10 inches], and theirs are well over 6 feet, so that’s sort of hard,” Cardoza said. “We can’t control that. We can’t change that, but our effort, we can make sure that we give 110 percent effort every single time.”

The Owls will take on Penn next in their final Big 5 matchup of the season. Despite a loss to Villanova earlier in the season, the Owls can still clinch a piece of the title.

“It’s definitely very exciting, knowing that we actually get a chance to keep fighting for a Big 5 championship,” Atkinson said. “I just want to have my players go out there like we played today. Go out there, focus hard, play hard, compete.”

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