For 40 minutes, junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald and sophomore guard Alliya Butts did everything they could to propel the Owls to victory, with little help from their supporting cast.
It was not enough, as the as the Owls (2-1), dropped their first game of the season Sunday 61-51 to Rutgers University at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“It’s a disappointing loss for us,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I just felt like we let one slip away, and if we could take it back, our approach would be a little bit different.”
Fitzgerald and Butts combined for 45 of the Temple’s 51 points. The rest of the team went 2-of-24 from the field.
“We just didn’t catch our rhythm until towards the end,” Fitzgerald said. “We knew they were going to be hungry for a win.”
In the first quarter, Temple shot 2-of-18 for a 11.1 first quarter field goal percentage. Fitzgerald scored the team’s first bucket 3:24 into the frame on a 3-pointer.
“Honestly, they blocked some of our shots, and I think that got in our heads,” Cardoza said of the Owls’ play in the first quarter. “Some of them started backing away and not being as aggressive, and we settled for a lot of jump shots.”
It was not until 1:29 remained in the third quarter, that an Owl other than Butts or Fitzgerald scored. Fitzgerald found sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson in transition for a bucket.
Atkinson and junior center Taylor Robinson, who both scored three points, were the only two players besides Fitzgerald and Butts to score points for the Owls.
“I felt like we stood around and watched [Feyonda] try to win the game by herself, and that’s not going to happen,” Cardoza said. “We waited way too late.”
Temple pulled within four points at 54-50, with 1:48 remaining in the fourth quarter after Butts knocked down a 3-point shot.
On Rutgers’ following possession, junior center Safiya Martin blocked a shot out-of-bounds with one second remaining on the shot clock. On the inbounding play, Rutgers’ junior guard Tyler Scaifee knocked down a 3-point shot from the top of the key to put the Scarlet Knights up 57-50.
“It was just miscommunication for us,” Butts said. “We just got tangled up.”
Butts and Fitzgerald agreed that if the Owls had two more minutes, the result would have been different despite trailing for the last 32 minutes of the game.
“We didn’t handle the business when the game was going on,” Fitzgerald said. “We got a little frustrated, and we can’t do that in these games.”
Fitzgerald led all scorers with 27 points and was one rebound away from the first double-double of her career. Butts scored 18 and added five rebounds.
The Owls, who had five fewer turnovers and four more steals than Scarlet Knights, finished the game 18-for-71 shooting and had 20 more attempted shots than Rutgers, who shot 22-of-51.
“It’s OK to lose basketball games, but you don’t want to lose them because of the lack of communication or not paying attention,” Cardoza said. “I just hope that we learn from this and make sure that we have more guys show up to play in a game like this.”
Mark McCormick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org