Owls’ lack of focus contributes to late game mistakes

Temple Women’s Basketball may be playing with a lack of focus, resulting in losses in the late stages of games.

Even with a short rotation, the Owls' attention to detail needs to improve the most. NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Women’s Basketball (10-15, 5-8 American Athletic Conference) is in the midst of a five-game losing streak. The team may be down in numbers with only eight players in their rotation, but head coach Diane Richardson is not using this as an excuse for their recent play. Instead, she points to the team’s lack of focus —  a mental barrier instead of a physical one — as the main catalyst to their losses. 

Following the 67-52 loss against East Carolina (19-8, 7-4 American Athletic Conference) on Feb. 8, Temple was outscored 25-7 in the fourth quarter and lost 17 turnovers. Richardson understands that a mental change is needed from her team in the final quarter of games.

“I think what we’ve done is lost focus a little bit in the fourth quarter,” Richardson said. “So we’re going to rectify that. They know they realize that we’re going to rectify that and it’s going to be back to Temple basketball.

While turnovers have been an issue all season, the Owls’ poor ball movement continues to negatively impact their offensive play. The Owls have also had trouble at the charity stripe, missing easy scoring opportunities at the line, a concept the team has had success at throughout the season. 

Prior to the contest against ECU, Temple ranked first in The American with free throw percentage sitting at 74 percent. Following the loss against the Pirates, the Owls dropped all the way to fourth in the conference in free throw percentage, going 10-of-22, which Richardson attributes to players’ lack of focus at the line. 

“That was a big dip, again, that comes with focus,” Richardson said. “We’ve got to focus on our free throws because they can be the game winner. So we’ve got to make sure that we understand how important those free throws are.”

Forward Caranda Perea has impressed throughout the past four games, taking her development to the next level, averaging 11.2 points and seven rebounds per game.  

Perea has also made defensive mistakes with a lack of communication that has allowed opposing teams to go on scoring runs. But, the forward echoed her coach’s sentiments on how she and her teammates can clean up their mistakes. 

“I think Coach said it best just being focused,” Perea said. “Doing the little things that we need to do like talking rebounding, playing defense, because you can’t control if the shots are going to fall. You control your effort every night and I feel like that’s something that we need to do better.”

Richardson hoped for her players to get back on track and stay focused in their next contest against Cincinnati (9-17, 2-9 American Athletic Conference). 

“We’ve got to have a concentrated effort on staying focused,” Richardson said on Feb. 10. “We’ll have reminders of that you know, focus, focus, focus throughout the game.” 

However, a lack of focus in the fourth quarter and overtime hit the Owls again, resulting in their third straight loss. The Owls missed free throws and allowed holes in the defense which prevented them from staying in the game. 

Aleah Nelson, who finished the contest with 19 points against the Bearcats, acknowledged that there are some problems finishing down the stretch in the fourth quarter. 

“We’re just missing defensive assignments,” Nelson said. “That’s all I can really say on that. It’s just a lack of focus. I mean, it’s just a tough loss.”

The Bearcats scored all of their offensive baskets in overtime through the paint with eight points and outrebounded the Owls 40-29. Cincinnati did what they had to do offensively to win the game, shooting 44 percent from the floor, but Temple, once again, struggled late from the charity stripe, playing a role in their loss. 

Throughout most of the game against Cincinnati, Temple knocked down their free throw opportunities after generating a paint presence and exhibiting aggressiveness in driving to the basket. 

The free throws woes came late in the fourth quarter and overtime after forward Ines Piper missed two crucial free throws in overtime with 30 seconds remaining resulting in her team going 13-of-19 from the line.

“It is just taking our time and knowing that every free throw counts,” Nelson said. “We’re definitely going to be practicing those in practice the next couple of days.”

With hopes of ending their losing streak against Houston (11-14, 7-5 The American), the Owls suffered from a lack of focus, but this time right from the tipoff. Within the first five minutes, Houston started the game on a 13-0 scoring run and never looked back, leading the entire contest and handing Temple their fourth straight loss, 56-48 on Feb. 18. 

Temple then lost 24 turnovers against Houston’s press defense, and faltered again coming out of the locker room after halftime. The Cougars took better care of the basketball, leading to a 15-2 scoring run to round out the third quarter and helping extend their lead to 42-31 heading into the final quarter of play.

“It’s tough to continue to have really bad third quarters,” Richardson said. “Then end up losing the game, it’s really tough to do that.”

Their fifth loss came in a 57-53 showing against UCF (12-13, 3-10 The American) on Feb. 22. Perea went down in the first quarter with what is assumed to be a broken jaw, and Temple soon after fell apart in the paint. Then, when Piper fouled out, they were down to five players for the final six minutes. 

Injuries are difficult to prevent, but discipline when it comes to fouls is not. The Owls need to tighten up their defense and play disciplined basketball down the stretch. 

However, Nelson and her teammates are still motivated in the locker room and still have hope for the team to finish strong with the four regular season games remaining, and the conference tournament left on the schedule. 

“It’s just a really tough loss especially at home,” Nelson said. “But the locker room is still good. I mean, we’re still in good spirits. Learn from it. Move on because we have other games to play. This season isn’t over and when the tournament starts, that’s when the season really just begins again.”

Temple will try to return to the win column when they travel to Wichita, Kansas, to take on Wichita State (15-11, 5-8 The American) on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m

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