The women’s basketball team handed Syracuse their first loss of the season, completing an exciting comeback victory after trailing by 14 at halftime.
The Owls shot 29% in the first half, as opposed to Syracuse’s 47%. However, those numbers changed dramatically after halftime. Temple shot 58% after the intermission and held Syracuse to 28% in route to a 74-67 win over the previously unbeaten Orange.
“We could have easily folded but that’s not what we do,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We fight until the very end, and we gave ourselves a chance. I thought the way we started that second half, we sort of took the life out of [Syracuse].”
Looking to build on its season-low 14 turnover performance earlier in the week against Bowling Green, Temple instead coughed it up on their very first possession of today’s game. The Owls committed 23 giveaways, a statistic that dug them in a hole in the first half.
However, trailing 39-25 after the initial 20 minutes, Temple was up for the challenge.
“What we talked about at halftime was just giving ourselves a chance,” Cardoza said. “Like ‘this game isn’t over, let’s approach this one possession at a time,’ and I think everybody believed that. And that’s half the battle right there.
The Owls came out of the locker room after the halftime with a newfound sense of energy. Sophomore point guard Tyonna Williams dribbled it down court and made a tough layup in traffic. Then, freshman forward Sally Kabengano made a pretty pass down low to setup redshirt-junior forward Natasha Thames. Senior center Victoria Macaulay then made a bucket to unleash Temple on a 6-0 run, forcing Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman to call a timeout. Macaulay had a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, her fourth double-double on the year.
The scoring didn’t stop after the timeout, however. Macaulay went baseline to score her second straight basket, and freshman guard Erica Covile scored in transition. Kabengano scored to cap a 12-0 run for the Owls to cut the Orange lead down to two.
“Next thing you know, we’re looking up at the scoreboard and we’re right there,” Cardoza said. “I think that just built more confidence, and then we really wanted to take it at them and try to take the game away from them.”
After another timeout, Syracuse (7-1) answered back with a 10-0 run of their own. Junior forward Carmen Tyson-Thomas, a spark-plug all afternoon, ended the Temple run with deep two-pointer. Freshman guard Brianna Butler hit a three-pointer to put the Orange back up by 12 with 13 minutes remaining, forcing Cardoza to use a timeout.
Macaulay came straight out of the timeout and ended the Syracuse run, before Thames ripped off three straight buckets. On the first field goal,Thames outmuscled two Syracuse defenders for a hard-fought rebound and was able to score on the put-back. Temple trailed by four with 10 minutes left.
With seven minutes remaining, Williams drilled a three-pointer to put Temple up 55-54. The shot was confirmed to be a three following a review by the officials. A few minutes later, Williams did it again, hitting another three to put the Owls up by two with four minutes left.
With a minute left, Brown sealed a Temple come-from-behind victory with a three of her own.
Syracuse was responsible for knocking Temple out of postseason play last season. Cardoza said the team had spoken about “revenge” in preparation for today’s rematch.
“For us it’s really good because we’re doing it with a lot of young guys that didn’t play last year,” Cardoza said. “[Syracuse] had a lot of the same guys. It feels really good to beat them because they’re a really good team. That says a lot about us.”
Temple (5-2) has now won back-to-back games for the second time this season. With their confidence sky-high, the Owls will now play six straight road games before returning home on Jan. 7 to take on Western Michigan. Next up, they’ll play Kent State on Thursday Dec. 6.
Tyler Sablich can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TySablich.