Owls drop conference home opener

Same problems plague Temple, as they close gap but fall late.

If the Owls wanted to build any sort of momentum with the Atlantic 10 Conference season barely underway Wednesday would have been a good night to do it.

Instead Temple (7-9, 1-1 A-10) laid an egg against conference newcomer Virginia Commonwealth University (8-9, 1-1 in A-10), falling 53-51, despite making a late charge to close the gap.

“This is a tough one to swallow,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I felt like right from the start that we were trying to play catch-up and we really didn’t get a lot of production from a lot of guys.”

Somehow, despite a miserable game in all facets not named sophomore guard Rateska Brown, Temple still had one final shot in the closing seconds. But two shots came up short in the final four seconds. It was a fitting end.

“I didn’t take control of the situation like I should have,” sophomore guard Tyonna Williams said about her decision on the final play. “I hesitated on my shot. I passed it to [freshman forward Sally Kabengano], who hadn’t played a lot of minutes in the game, so she was forced to shoot a bad shot.”

Temple really had very little reason to be in the game in the closing seconds. They shot poorly—28.6-percent shooting and a lackluster offensive performance—yet surprising coughed up the ball just 13 times.

At times Williams, who’s grown into arguably the team’s most vocal leader, was visibly frustrated with the effort of some of her teammates. At one point she yelled something at freshman guard Meghan Roxas who was noticeably out-of-sorts for much of the game despite scoring seven points.

“I really don’t know,” Williams said about the team’s chemistry. “Maybe people couldn’t hear me calling the plays. I can’t lose my head like that though, because it affected my game. I’ve just got to do better in situations like that.”

“It all comes down to there’s a game to be won, and we had opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them,” Cardoza said.

The Owls were forced to sit senior center Victoria Macaulay, who recorded three fouls, for 11 minutes which likely hampered their ability to make their presence felt in the low post.

When she was in Macaulay didn’t seem like the reigning A-10 Player of the Week, notching just eight points and eight boards.

“I don’t think it really hurt us because we were still on the boards heavy,” Williams said. “We had shooters in when [Macaulay] wasn’t in. I think people were kind of second-guessing themselves.”

The lone bright spot came from Brown, who single-handedly kept Temple in for much of the game. Brown recorded a career high 22 points while going six-of-15 from downtown. She also grabbed seven rebounds and notched six steals.

“I just had wide open shots,” Brown said. “The team needed me to shoot it so I just had confidence every time I shot the ball, but it don’t really matter because we didn’t win.”

But Brown went ice cold for much of the second half, at one point missing on eight straight before nailing a trey with 19 seconds to go to draw within two. But that was the last bucket for either team.

The Rams posed a lot of challenges for Temple on defense, resorting to a sagging zone that took away the post for much of the game. The Owls never had an answer.

“Depending on who was out there they sagged on a lot of guys and clogged the lane,” Cardoza said. “The only guys that they really were guarding were [Brown and Roxas] when she went out there.”

It’s the same things that have plagued the Owls much of the season. And they now sit at 1-1 in the conference. It’s the first time they’ve been .500 or less in conference play since their second game of the A-10 season last year when they lost to St. Bonaventure.

But that Bonnies team won the regular season championship. The same won’t likely be said of the 2013 Rams.

Temple’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, as they head to Duquesne (13-3, 2-0 in A-10), who just crushed Saint Louis 68-41, on Sunday.

-Jake Adams

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