The Owls’ size is part of their identity these days, and Saturday’s 72-56 win over Central Florida highlighted resulting positives and drawbacks of Temple’s smaller lineup.
Temple (8-11, 4-2 American Athletic Conference) jumped out to a quick and commanding lead at the start of the first half. Knights’ coach Joi Williams was forced to burn her first timeout 39 seconds into the game as her team struggled with the Owls’ defensive pressure.
Using a full court press at times, Temple built up an 8-0 lead less than one minute into the contest and continued to roll after that.
The speed and quickness of the Owls’ team forced 15 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of play, and converted for 24 points off the first-half miscues. The Owls thrived in the fast style of pace as they built a 29-point lead heading into the half.
“That’s how we have to play,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We have to scramble around and try to get loose balls, get in the passing lanes, try to trap and make things happen so we can get out and run.”
With a 49-20 lead at the break, it looked like the Owls were ready to coast to their fourth conference win of the year. However, after the break, Temple no longer found easy chances.
The latter half posed a struggle offensive as the Owls to make a bucket for more than 11 minutes. Even uncontested shots were not falling for the Owls.
Offensive ruts are no stranger to the team this season. Senior Tyonna Willliams, who led the Owls in scoring with 15 points, said the team’s struggles stem from frustration with its misses.
“I think it’s just people want good things to happen all the time,” Williams said. “Even myself, I want my shots to fall all the time, so if a couple shots don’t fall I get down on myself too. So, I don’t think it’s youth, I think it’s just people wanting it to happen for them all the time and when it doesn’t, we as a team don’t know how to get out of that mindset.”
On the other side of the floor, UCF began utilizing their forwards, exposing Temple’s lack of size inside. The Knights scored 18 points in the pain in the second half compared to just eight in the first.
Temple’s lead was eventually cut down to eight with 8:21 remaining. A 3-pointer by freshman Alliya Butts halted the UCF run, and the Knights never got the game any closer as the Owls went on a 17-4 run to regain control of the game.
“In the second half they came out, you know they’re not just going to roll over and die, and they just really took it to us,” Cardoza said. “But down the stretch we had guys make big plays and make big shots.”
“They cut the lead to eight, but we found ways to make plays and that shows a lot about our young guys,” Cardoza added.
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.