Tanaya Atkinson feels like Temple gave the game away.
The freshman guard, who scored 12 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds on Monday night, believes the Owls (7-9, 1-3 Big 5) were not attentive enough to defeat their Big 5 rival, the University of Pennsylvania (7-4, 3-0 Big 5).
“Lack of focus,” she said of her team’s performance. “We were worried about being tired instead of making easy layups and I don’t think our heads were there today.”
The Owls, who lost 52-50 at the Palestra, left the storied arena with an unsatisfied taste in their mouths. The team struggled to find a rhythm all night. The Owls shot 28 percent from the field for the game, 50 percent from the free-throw line and 20 percent from 3-point range.
“I definitely think we had a lot of layups we didn’t capitalize on and a lot of missed free-throws,” coach Tonya Cardoza said.
Along with the numerous missed chances, the Owls were hampered with foul trouble throughout. Temple had five players commit three or more fouls, including forward Erica Covile, who fouled out with three minutes left. For a team currently with only eight active players, Cardoza believes the team must play smarter.
“We committed some fouls … that got guys in foul trouble,” Cardoza said. “They are fouls that we didn’t have to commit. So that is not being smart and not being disciplined … we can’t afford to get guys in foul trouble.”
Covile, who was named The American’s Player of the Week Monday, was among those saddled with foul trouble. The junior forward, who came in averaging 19 points and 14 rebounds per game through her last five games, managed 10 points and nine rebounds in a 21-minute effort. Cardoza believed Covile’s foul trouble changed the complexion of the contest.
“Erica has been our best player for the last couple weeks and she was in foul trouble the whole game, and she is someone that they have confidence in now,” Cardoza said. “That took its toll on us.”
The foul trouble forced Atkinson and senior Tyonna Williams to play 35 and 31 minutes, respectively. Atkinson, whose 35 minutes were the second most she has played all season, knew she had to keep her focus despite her fatigue.
“You have to bear down … you just got to fight,” Atkinson said. “No matter how tired I was, I stayed in and stayed composed.”
Despite all the foul troubles and missed opportunities, the Owls were neck-and-neck with Penn with with less than a minute to play.
Freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 48 with 50 seconds left. Penn responded on its next possession with a 3-pointer of their own from Renee Bush to take the lead.
Atkinson would then bring the Owls within one with just under five seconds to go. The Quakers’ Kathleen Roche split a pair of free throws, and Williams’ half-court heave missed as time expired.
For a team that entered the night riding a three-game win streak, Cardoza said her team wasn’t composed. She said the Owls were undisciplined, and the performance showed.
“After the game, [the players] went back into the locker room and thought off all the mistakes they made … it’s the little things that changed the whole game,” Cardoza said. “Right now they are looking back and thinking, ‘We let this slip away … it’s the little things we are not doing.’
Michael Guise can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.