Late-game sequence downs Owls

With nine seconds remaining in the game, Villanova forward Taylor Holeman scored what would be a game-winning layup, lifting the Wildcats to a 59-58 victory against the Owls at McGonigle Hall on Sunday.

“It’s not a good feeling going into the holidays this way,” coach Tonya Cardoza said.

For Temple (6-4), it has now lost two consecutive Philadelphia Big 5 match-ups. The Owls have now lost three of their last five games heading into the beginning of their American Athletic Conference schedule. Villanova (9-1) has now won two straight games after Saint Joseph’s ended its previous streak of seven straight wins.

Freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald led the Owls offensively with 23 points, on 9-of-18 shooting, and nine rebounds, but also held a team-high of five turnovers. With a career-high in points, sophomore guard Erica Covile recorded 16 points, on 5-of-9 from the field, eight rebounds, a block, and a steal.

Fitzgerald and Covile were the sole Temple players to score double figures against the Wildcats. Temple starters, senior forward Natasha Thames, fifth-year senior guard Shi-Heria Shipp, and junior guard Tyonna Williams, combined for 12 total points scored on 25 percent shooting.

“When you look at the shooting percentage, [Thames] is 3-for-11, and all of her shots are layups,” Cardoza said. “That’s a double-digit right there. Shipp, 1-for-7 [and] her’s are all layups. That’s a double-digit. If they make their layups, that’s four guys in double figures. It’s a matter of concentrating and making layups. They missed layups.”

Paving the way for the Villanova offense was a tandem of bench players: sophomore guard Caroline Coyer and junior forward Taylor Holeman. Coyer led all Wildcat scorers with 19 points, including three field goals from 3-point range, while Holeman ranked second with 10 points scored. Senior guard Devon Kane recorded a game-high seven assists.

In the first half, neither team was able to hold more than a one-possession lead against its opposition. Early on, Villanova held a 5-4 lead in the first four minutes, but Shipp found Covile for an open 3-pointer that gave Temple its first lead of the day.

At the 13:16 mark, Holeman scored a game-tying layup, which would begin a seven-minute stretch that consisted of five lead changes and three ties.

With almost three minute remaining in the half, and Temple leading 16-15, Covile pushed the Owls ahead by three with a layup. After Temple gained its largest lead of the game, Coyer responded with a 3-point basket to tie the game at 18 with 2:37 remaining.

Neither team could score in the remaining minutes, making the halftime score 18-18.

“I felt like in the first half, we did a really good job defending, holding them to eight field goals, 18 points,” Cardoza said. “You can’t ask for a better defensive effort. On the offensive end, we missed a lot of easy opportunities in the first half. I felt like there were layups that were there that we just came up short with.”

After a first half that saw both teams shooting under 30 percent from the floor, both teams’ offenses were revitalized in the second period.

With 18:03 remaining in the game and the score tied at 23, a Fitzgerald 3-point field goal sparked a two minute run of seven unanswered points by the Owls.

Shortly after a timeout by Villanova, the Wildcats went on to outscore the Owls on a 18-4 run, capped off by another Coyer 3-point shot, giving Villanova a 41-34 advantage with 10:29 remaining.

After Temple battled back from the deficit, a 3-pointer by junior guard Rateska Brown tied the game at 49 with 5:22 remaining in regulation.

For a majority of final five minutes, Villanova held the lead, and after a Fitzgerald turnover, Holeman’s jump shot pushed the Wildcats’ advantage to 57-52 with 50 seconds remaining. The Wildcat advantage forced Cardoza to take a timeout.

Out of the timeout, Fitzgerald drove past an isolated Wildcat defender and scored on a layup that closed the deficit to three. Shortly after, a missed Coyer free throw led to another driving Fitzgerald lay in, making the score 57-56 with 33 seconds remaining.

On the other end of the floor, after Holeman missed a shot close to the rim, the Owls pushed the ball in transition and Covile found Williams for the lead-changing layup. Up 58-57 with 22 seconds left, Temple then transitioned back to the defensive end, looking to hold Villanova scoreless for one more possession. With nine seconds remaining, Coyer found a break in the Owls’ defense, leading Holeman to the go-ahead lay in and the 59-58 lead.

With the ball in the Owls’ possession, Fitzgerald took the ball up the court but lost the handle and possession, which forced Williams to put Holeman on the foul line.

After Holeman missed her free throw and Thames corralled the defensive rebound, Temple took their final timeout.

On the final possession, Williams inbounded the ball to Fitzgerald, who dribbled up the court and launched a long 3-point shot, but the ball was not release before time expired. Fitzgerald’s final attempt bounced off of the right side of the backboard.

“I felt like we broke down in the second half,” Cardoza said. “In the second half, they got anything and everything that they wanted. We’ve been talking, since we started [the season], that we can be a really good team if we sit down and defend. That’s a thing that I think if we play some good defense, we could be a pretty good team, and in the second half we gave [Villanova] 41 points.”

“You can’t give a team like Villanova 41 points in any half because there’s just not enough possessions for you,” Cardoza added. “We’re not an offensive team that we can sustain something like that. It’s difficult to swallow because you can’t give up 41 points on the other end. That’s something you would hope they’d get for the game.”

Despite holding the rebounding advantage of 40-29, Temple turned the ball over 16 times compared to Villanova’s seven turnovers, and recorded seven assists against Villanova’s 17 assists. The Owls also registered a season-low one steal.

Brien Edwards can be reached at brien.erick.edwards@temple.edu or on twitter @BErick1123.

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