Temple and Florida had a few things in common heading into last night’s matchup at the Liacouras Center.
Both teams’ leading scorer is at the center position and set up at the high post on nearly every trip down the court. The Owls and Gators also have three starters averaging double figures.
But the staggering difference in Temple’s 62-49 loss to the Gators was Florida center Vanessa Hayden, who scored a team-high 15 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and rejected seven shots, handing Temple its third loss in four games.
“We knew she would come in and pose a threat,” Temple coach Dawn Staley said.
Natashia Morehead helped bolster the Gators’ frontcourt, adding 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Owls (4-6) pulled out to a three-point lead seven minutes into the game, shedding any doubt that they could not compete with a Top 25 contender. But an unprecedented eight-minute scoreless span allowed Florida (10-3) to take the lead and keep it.
“We just tend to lose our composure when we miss shots,” Staley said. “If we get down, which is a possibility, we are always going to be in the game with this kind of team. They take quick shots, and give you a chance to get back in the game. We didn’t box out and when it rains, it pours.”
A second-half offensive surge led by freshman point guard Britney Jordan’s 13 points (including three 3-pointers), pulled Temple within 11, the closest it would get.
“Britney just has to score,” Staley said. “She’s a scoring point guard but she can’t put us in the position to score in the game if she isn’t thinking the game. She gave us a boost off the bench and hopefully gained some confidence as we go into the [Atlantic-10].”
Center Candice Dupree scored a game-high 16 points while forward Ari Moore added eight.
Despite seeing limited playing time, sophomore guard Jennifer Owens and freshman guard Stephanie Douglas made their home debuts, ensuring Staley depth on the bench heading into A-10 play. Temple’s first conference game is this Tuesday against Fordham at the Liacouras Center.
With the difficult non-conference schedule, Staley knows what it will take to win the A-10 Championships.
“We have to get 12, 13 [conference] wins,” Staley said. “We have to take it out of the committee’s hands and win our tournament, and win out.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com