The Owls held on as long as they could, but it didn’t take long before the No. 1 team in the nation played like the No. 1 team in the nation.
“I felt like we competed for the first 15 minutes of the basketball game,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “The only thing is it’s a 40 minute game”.
Looking for a huge upset against the reigning national champions, the Temple Owls lost their second straight American Athletic Conference game to the Connecticut Huskies 80-36 on Saturday at Webster Bank Arena.
For Temple (8-7, 2-3), the loss to UConn is its second consecutive defeat, which is the first time Temple has lost back-to-back games this year. UConn (17-0, 5-0) continues to dominate its opposition, winning every game this season by double figures, including winning the last three games by at least 40 points.
Four of the Owls’ top five leading scorers, freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, senior forward Natasha Thames, fifth-year senior guard Shi-Heria Shipp, and junior guard Tyonna Williams, were unable to reach their season scoring averages against UConn. Combined, the four scorers registered 15 total points.
“[UConn’s] guards can be really, really aggressive and get out in the passing lanes and be disruptive,” Cardoza said. “They can be disruptive like that because they have the bigs back there if they get beat. They were just swarming all over us and making it difficult for our guards to do anything. I think it got to a point where it was just too much for our players”.
Hitting two of three from long range, sophomore guard Eric Covile led the Owls in points, scoring 13. Covile also added seven rebounds, two blocks, and three steals.
Freshman center Taylor Robinson made her first career start against the Huskies, and recorded eight points and eight rebounds, which were both career-highs.
For the Huskies, their starters were able to score more effectively than their counterparts, as four UConn starters scored in double figures. Senior guard Bria Hartley led all scorers with 19 points. Coming off the bench, junior center Kiah Stokes pulled down a game-high 18 rebounds.
A little under two minutes into the game, after a Robinson three-point play, Temple held what would be its sole lead of the game, ahead 6-5. Shortly after the play by Robinson, a Hartley jumper pushed the Huskies ahead, and UConn would not lose the lead again.
Temple stayed within single digits of UConn for the next ten minutes of play, but a fastbreak layup by sophomore forward Breanna Stewart pushed the Huskies ahead by ten, with 8:40 remaining in the period.
Continuing to add to their large lead, the Huskies outscored the Owls for the remainder of the period and held a 39-22 halftime lead.
In the second period, things began to get ugly for Temple, and UConn would pull away to a unsurmountable point advantage. Holding Temple to 14 total second half points, and outscoring Temple 28-5 in the first ten minutes of the period, the Huskies would roll to their lopsided victory.
Though Temple held the advantage in rebounds, recording 42 compared to UConn’s 39, the Huskies won several other statistical categories en route to their blowout win. Temple shot 21 percent for the game, and UConn shot 52 percent from the field, scoring 27 points off of 27 Temple turnovers. UConn turned the ball over 12 times, winning the turnover battle by more than 20.
“I felt like our fight, it was there,” Cardoza said. “The things that cost us the game, obviously 27 turnovers, but more importantly, they got way too many transition buckets. I felt like it got to a point where it got out of hand and once it snowballed, it just rolled and we couldn’t contain it. They just have way too many weapons for us”.
Brien Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @BErick1123