The Owls battled to the end against No. 7 Ohio State, but couldn’t overcome a late surge by the Buckeyes in an 84-75 loss.
Ohio State led by as many as 11 points in the first half, behind senior center Jantel Lavender’s 37 points and 12 rebounds.
“She’s one of those kids that you can’t guard one-on-one, not with what we have,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “Our post players are really small, undersized and thin. She has a lot of bulk and you can’t guard her one-on-one.”
Lavender, who’s a three-time Big Ten player of the year, recorded her 58th double double to open the season. The center was 16 of 22 from the floor and made all five of her free throw attempts in 39 minutes of play.
“That’s something that we have to focus on, making sure that we don’t let one player dominate the game like she was able to,” Cardoza said.
The Buckeyes also had solid production from their three guards, as seniors Brittany Johnson and Alison Jackson, as well as sophomore Tayler Hill, all recorded double-digit points.
“They have a great nucleus,” Cardoza said. “You have one of the best post players [Lavender] in the country and you lead the country in three-point field goal percentage [last season]. You have to pick your poison.”
Sophomore forward Natasha Thames was given the task of stopping the Buckeye’s main threat, and posted a solid outing against Lavender, with seven points and 10 rebounds.
Despite Ohio State’s dominating offensive attack, the Owls were able to stay in the game, in what turned out to be a very high scoring affair. Temple got production from all across the roster, as the bench outscored the opposing bench 17-0. The team was able to spread the production around as eight Owls scored on the night, in which seven of them were on the court for at least 20 minutes.
“I feel like this year we have a lot more scoring power,” senior guard Qwedia Wallace said.
Wallace led the team with 32 points on 12 of 21 shooting, including seven from three-point territory.
“Qwedia definitely kept us in the game. She was able to match her [Lavender] basket for basket,” Cardoza said.
Despite the hot start to the season, Wallace was quick to give credit to the team’s work ethic leading up to the opener.
“When you’re hot, you feel like everything you throw up is going in,” Wallace said. “But at the same time we worked hard and I think this is going to be a regular outcome for us.”
The Owls opened the contest with a 5-0 lead, but that was their largest lead of the game. Ohio State dominated for much of the first half, going up 39-34 at intermission. The Owls battled back and managed to tie the score at 58-58 midway through the second half but were unable to capitalize on the momentum. The loss was the team’s first season opening loss since 2002 against Illinois.
“It’s frustrating, especially when we worked really hard on the defensive end,” Wallace said. “I think the thing that we have to work on is gaining our composure, especially when we have it close.”
The Buckeyes managed 55-percent from the floor to go along with 22 of 23 from the line, compared to Temple’s 3 free throws on 8 attempts. The one positive was the team’s three-point percentage, where the Owls managed 52-percent behind Wallace’s 7 baskets from downtown.
Despite the loss, Cardoza said the team showed that they are a competitive force who can go up against any team on any night.
“I definitely think that we’re one of those really good, quality teams that can compete with anyone,” Cardoza said. “For the most part our guys feel like they’re underrated… and maybe we’re a little under the radar, but hopefully with games like today and moving forward that we win these types of games and we put ourselves on the map.”
The Owls will look to rebound from the loss in their first road game on November 16, as they take on the Seton Hall Pirates in New Jersey.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.