Tyonna Williams walked up the court in Hagan Arena with the Owls trailing 43-41 and a little over two minutes left in overtime against St. Joseph’s and fed the ball to Victoria Macaulay.
Only the feed wasn’t so much a feed, but a dribbler, that redshirt-senior forward Chatil van Grinsven easily stole and cruised to the other end. And suddenly the score was 45-41.
“I took a chance, I guess, just at the right time,” van Grinsven said. “I saw that she was going to pass the ball in the corner of my eyes. I guess I just took a leap of faith and I went for it and there it was.”
“I wouldn’t say that it [cost us the game],” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I felt like even plays before that offensively we were just bizarre. There were things that we could have done and we did something different.”
And what was originally a hard fought game between two bitter Big 5 rivals become a walk in the park for the Hawks. Temple fell 49-41, falling to 12-13 and 5-5 in the A-10.
St. Joe’s entered the game 8-1 in conference play. Temple had a chance to make a serious impact in the standings by hurting a rival and dropping their magic number to just one, but couldn’t take advantage of a rough shooting performance by both teams.
The Owls shot 25.9 percent from the field, and held the Hawks to 29.4 percent shooting.
“I think it’s always going to be a grind out with Temple,” Hawks’ coach Cindy Griffin. “We just needed a little bit of a break. And we got it, and then we got stops down on the other end.”
“It’s just a different type of game,” Griffin added. “Maybe the rivalry of Xavier and Dayton has the same thing but I would argue that, and say that there’s nothing like a Big 5 game.”
The game started out just as physically as it ended. Both teams struggled to find open shots, consistently facing pressure on every shot. After St. Joe’s pushed the lead to 4-0 in the opening minutes the Owls respond with two treys from sophomore guards Tyonna Williams and Rateska Brown to tie the game 6-6. But that was in the first eight minutes.
The pace barely picked up for the remainder of the half. The Owls got six straight points from redshirt-junior forward Natasha Thames to push ahead 12-6 with over seven minutes remaining but the Hawks clawed their way back, tying it at 18 a piece with two minutes to go. The scoring woos continued as Kabengano made one of her free throws in the final minute to send the Owls to the locker room up 19-18.
The game within the game for the first half was the battle between van Grinsven and Macaulay. Neither found success, combining for four points and 12 rebounds. Macaulay tacked on two blocks but for the most part was irrelevant as the Hawks did everything they could to shut her down.
“It was very physical,” van Grinsven said. “My teammates were there to help me, though.”
“We were just trying to take away her strengths,” Thames said. “She likes to go to the baseline so we were trying to force her middle.”
Macaulay’s struggles continued in the second half making just one more bucket. She finished with seven points on 3-of-18 shooting, 13 rebounds and five blocks.
“I thought our defense was tremendous on their key players,” Griffin said.
Thames picked up much of the slack with 15 points and 13 boards, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Owls ahead. Temple jumped out to a 23-18 lead thanks to four more Thames’s points, but the Hawks eventually took the lead for a six-minute stretch off a jumper by redshirt-sophomore Natasha Cloud.
“I think because they were doubling and triple-teaming [Macaulay] that opened up a lot of opportunities for me, so I just wanted to make sure that I could contribute and help my team,” Thames said.
But over the final four minutes the Owls missed three of their final six freebies. The biggest miss came at the hands of Williams with the score 39-39 and 18 seconds remaining. Williams went to the line trailing by one and made the first, but couldn’t convert the second, sending the game to overtime.
In the extra session Macaulay made her final jumper to give Temple a 41-39 lead but it was all St. Joe’s from there. The costly turnover by Williams a few minutes later was the final straw, sealing the Owls’ fate.
“We knew coming into the game that it was going to be a nail-biter, because it’s always been that way,” Cardoza said. “I definitely thought we had the mindset to come out here and try to steal one, but once we got into overtime I felt like we started to panic when they took the lead.”
“I felt like for the first 42 minutes that we did everything we need to do to try to win the basketball game,” Cardoza added.
The loss snapped the Owls’ 13-game winning streak over their city rival. The game was also the final A-10 matchup between the two squads, although their yearly Big 5 battle will continue despite Temple moving to the Big East next season.
Temple returns home Wednesday to host Xavier (9-15, 3-7 in the A-10), which is coming off back-to-back wins over La Salle and Rhode Island. A win keeps the Owls in control of their own destiny to make the A-10 Tournament, where the opening rounds will be played at Hagan Arena.