The women’s basketball team fell to Dayton, 75-67, in the semifinal round.
The women’s basketball team left the locker room at the Tsongas Center with heads hung on March 6.
One of the favorites to reach the championship round of the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament, the Owls were knocked out in the semifinals by the No. 6 seed Dayton.
“They deserved to win,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I mean, obviously we gave a valiant effort because we’re always going to continue to fight, but they did everything they were supposed to do. [The Flyers] were hungrier than we were.”
“I’m extremely proud of our coaches and players,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir added. “Temple’s a great team, and we did all the right things to pull out a win.”
Temple entered the A-10 tournament as the second seed after snapping its 15-game winning streak in the season finale against then-No. 6 Xavier. Senior guard Qwedia Wallace and company hoped to use the loss as fuel to drive them toward winning the tournament, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The Owls opened up the tournament with a bye in the first round before taking on St. Bonaventure. Led by Wallace’s 27 points, Temple won handily, 75-56. But a closer look at the game showed critical flaws that were exposed nearly 24 hours later by Dayton.
“I just thought that it carried over from [the game against St. Bonaventure] where we didn’t do a good job of keeping people in front of us,” Cardoza said. “And the same thing happened [against Dayton] where we weren’t sitting down and guarding people, and [we] allowed them to get easy shots.”
While Temple’s offense was clicking for most of the two games, its defense seemed to be slow after nearly a week off. Wallace, junior guard Shey Peddy and junior forward Kristen McCarthy exposed the Bonnies’ and Flyers’ defenses as the “Big 3” scored in double-digits both games, but the opposing offenses did the same to the Owls.
St. Bonaventure shot more than 40 percent from the field and converted 15 of 21 free-throw attempts by drawing 14 fouls. If it wasn’t for Temple’s ability to score at will on more than 50 percent shooting, its defense would have doomed them.
The struggles carried into the next day. The Owls opened with a 4-0 lead but couldn’t maintain it. A layup by junior forward Natasha Thames with nine minutes left in the first half put the Owls up, 16-14, their last lead of the game. Temple fell behind by as many as 20 in the second half after Dayton went on an 18-2 run before making a furious run in the final minutes and closing the deficit to five, but Temple couldn’t get over the hump before the buzzer in a 75-67 loss.
Although the Owls shot 41 percent on the day, led by McCarthy’s 18 points, defense was lacking. Dayton’s star, junior forward Justine Raterman, put up 15 points despite missing significant minutes in the second half with a knee injury. The Owls also allowed senior guard Kristin Daugherty and junior guard Patrice Lalor to score 16 and 11 points, respectively.
“It was just tough,” Wallace said. “Shots weren’t falling.”
Most of the damage was done by a well-executed transition offense which was simply too fast for Temple’s defense.
“We had to help a lot which left them open for a wide-open layup or an offensive rebound,” Cardoza said. “And then down on the other end we just didn’t execute.”
But the biggest difference turned out to be free throws. Temple committed 26 personal fouls that led to 26-of-32 shooting from the line. Dayton’s three scoring leaders were responsible for 18 of those freebies.
“When we’re really locked in we shoot free throws well, we take advantage of those situations, and we had the right kids taking them too,” Jabir said. “They don’t miss a lot.”
Overall, it was a disappointing finish to an otherwise great season. While Dayton was picked to finish second in the A-10 before the start of the season, many said they felt Xavier and Temple were meant to face each other in the finals.
“I think they’re a great team,” Jabir said. “I really, really do, and I’m sure TV and everyone else wanted Xavier playing Temple because it makes sense. They’re two great teams.”
For Dayton, its run ended a day later in a close loss to Xavier in the championships, 67-60.
All the Owls can do now is regroup and focus on making a run in the NCAA tournament later this week and hope to avenge the loss.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com.