Heading into Saturday’s showdown with Florida, the women’s basketball team had committed 44 turnovers in its last two games. The consequence was two losses totaling a combined deficit of 43 points. So, for the third time in as many games Owls coach Dawn Staley presented a remodeled starting lineup.
The result was 23 more turnovers in a 68-54 loss to the Gators (11-4) at the Liacouras Center, but a rejuvenated pair of struggling Owls (7-9).
Out of the starting rotation this time was center Lady Comfort and guard LaKeisha Eaddy. The two resuscitated their recent slumping streaks to each record a team-high 14 points.
“Coach just wanted to see how we would look coming off the bench,” Comfort said. “I got to see how the pace of the game was going to be from the start, how they were going to play the post players, and just see it first and then go out there. I think I play better seeing the game first before I get out there and play so it will probably continue with me.”
Comfort shot 5-of-10 from the field and led the team with 13 total rebounds.
“She hasn’t been playing well the last 10 games and we needed her to play well for her psyche, for us as a basketball team,” Staley said. “And we may continue with the lineup since it did spark her a little bit.”
The Gators up-tempo offense raced to a 13-1 gap that the Owls couldn’t close. Florida produced four players with double-digit scoring courtesy of 43.9 percent shooting.
Senior Ashley Morris was chomped by the Gator defense, as she was held to 1-of-12 shooting. Morris scored a season low two points, nearly 14 points below her average.
“[Morris] forced shots in the paint and you can’t do that,” Staley said. “If it is not your night then you have to play with the same energy as if [it was] and then get somebody else involved. If you do it that way, a couple of those shots will fall.”
Florida held a commanding 28-10 lead with just over six minutes to play in the first half, when the Owls made a spirited 17-10 run to cut the difference to 11. A quick second half lay-up by junior Shanea Cotton put the Owls down only nine and in position to pounce. However, the Gators strength and speed proved too much, as they stretched their lead to 19 points with 1:08 to play in the game.
“Turnovers really cost us in this game, because by Florida being such a fast transition team, we allowed them to do what they do best – which is run in transition and push the ball down the floor,” Eaddy said.
The Owls could not crack the Gators fluent offense, even when applying pressure and trapping. They managed only two steals in the game.
The Owls have now lost three in a row for the second time this season. Temple is now 1-4 all-time against the Gators and continues to search for the right lineup equation.
But Staley said that she was encouraged by her team’s performance and will look to find a solution to the Owls’ turnover puzzle.
The Owls have plenty of time off before they travel to Dayton Saturday to open up A-10 play.
For more on the Owls’ game against Florida, read “Staley switches up starting lineup.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.