The final 10 seconds of the women’s basketball team’s loss in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament semifinals to eventually champion Dayton could have been the season’s defining moment.
Instead, with 10 seconds left, junior center Victoria Macaulay – looking to cap off her resurgent season – got the ball, ducked under the basket, under a defender and put up a layup that bounced off the rim and out. And the Owls were left empty handed and heavy hearted in a 66-63 loss.
“As a team we really wanted to be the first for coach [Tonya Cardoza] to get the A-10 Championship, and just for us, just to say that all that we’ve been through this season it paid off at the end,” senior guard Shey Peddy said. “So to end like this, it hurts a lot.”
Temple got burnt in the post by Dayton. A-10 first team selection senior forward Justine Raterman led the way for the Flyers with 16 points and eight rebounds. Dayton’s frontcourt accounted for 46 points and 26 rebounds, more than half the team’s totals.
“We got rattled, and on the defensive end we weren’t playing smart basketball,” Cardoza said.
Macaulay, who emerged as the Owls’ most dominant post player during conference play, continued her strong season with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Junior forward Brittany Lewis came through off the bench with a career game, recording a double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds, both career highs.
Peddy gave it her all. But one day removed from breaking her nose against Duquesne and scoring 20 of her 30 points in the final nine minutes, Dayton found a way to limit her. She put up 10 points, six assists and three rebounds in another physical matchup.
“I don’t think any one person in our league can stop [Peddy],” Dayton coach Jim Jabar said. “It wasn’t going to be a one-on-one deal with her because she’s just too good.”
“I feel like I picked the worst day to have the worst game of my life,” Peddy said. “They did a good job of containing me, making sure I had no open shots.”
The senior guards did their job, though, keeping the game within reach. Kristen McCarthy, BJ Williams and Peddy combined for 32 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and nine steals.
The problem for the Owls was senior center Joelle Connelly, who grabbed two rebounds, blocked three shots, but didn’t score.
Temple started Macaulay and Connelly at center and forward, respectively, and the duo played 12 minutes, 21 seconds together during the game. During that span Temple and Dayton tied 22-22, with the Owls allowing just 28.6 percent shooting.
Cardoza sat Connelly five minutes into the game for Lewis, as she rotated the three post players throughout the game. Macaulay and Lewis manned the front court for 20 minutes, five seconds, during the game, as the Owls’ shooting percentage jumped three percentage points to 40.5 percent. With them on the floor, Temple scored 1.84 points per minute, and allowed 1.64.
“Macaulay’s a force, and I think she blocked a couple of shots, and a great athlete,” Jabar said.
But the wheels fell off whenever Connelly replaced Macaulay at center. In the seven minutes, 34 seconds the Owls didn’t have Macaulay, they managed an abysmal 11.8 percent shooting while allowing 44.4 percent to the Flyers. The points per minute flipped dramatically as well, with Temple posting .53 per minute to Dayton’s 1.98.
In the second half, the Owls were outscored 6-13 with Connelly on the floor. With Connelly on the bench Temple put up 28 to Dayton’s 21. And when Macaulay subbed in for Connelly for the last time with six minutes, 57 seconds remaining the Owls made a 14-9 run that ended with one rimmed-out layup.
“Even playing horrible basketball, we still gave ourselves a shot to win at the end,” Cardoza said.
If Macaulay would have sat the entire 40 minutes, Dayton would have won handily, 79-21. But Cardoza didn’t want to call out anyone after the game, including Connelly.
“I don’t think it was because it was [Connelly],” Cardoza said.
“I think all five guys that were on the floor weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing,” she added. “There might have been four guys, three guys, that were probably doing what they were supposed to be doing but there was always someone that wasn’t paying attention and it hurt us.”
True, maybe the rest of the team slacked off. But Dayton’s defense was noticeably more effective with Connelly on the floor. In the limited time Macaulay wasn’t playing Temple was outscored 4-15. Open shots were at a premium.
Dayton knew they could focus on the perimeter with Connelly on the court because she didn’t have the athleticism in the paint to guard whoever came into the paint or the ability to score the way Macaulay can.
“They take on the personality of their head coach, and she’s tough, and they don’t quit,” Jabar said.
Temple has shown they’re more dynamic with Macaulay on the floor. If they want any chance going deep in the NIT tournament, versatility is their best hope. Connelly doesn’t provide that, unfortunately. Quick players blow by her. Big post players overpower her.
Cardoza needs to find a way to maximize what she’s getting from Connelly and keep Temple in games. Macaulay needs to be on the floor as much as possible, even if that means playing 40 minutes.
But, hey, it’s March Madness. Anything can happen.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.