In a game that could come back to hold major Atlantic 10 Tournament implications, the outcome didn’t turn out the way the Owls hoped it would.
Temple lost a heartbreaker in the final seconds against Xavier, 54-53.
“I thought Xavier came in here with a good game plan,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I felt like they out-worked us in a lot of areas. We didn’t come out with the same intensity and fire we did against St. Joe’s, and that was evident. I thought the game was there to be taken, and we weren’t hungry. I felt like [Xavier] was definitely hungry.”
The Owls dug themselves a bit of a hole in first half. They shot 32 percent, with freshman forward Sally Kabengano, freshman guard Meghan Roxas and sophomore guard Rateska Brown shooting a combined 3-of-19 from the field.
While neither team shot the lights out in the first half, it was Xavier that stole the momentum going into halftime when Aliyah Zantt drained a three-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Musketeers a 25-21 lead at the break.
“There’s not really much to say,” Brown said. “We didn’t show up. We didn’t do our parts as a team or individually.”
However, the Owls burst out to a 7-0 run following the break, after Kabengano hit a mid-range jumper that opened up the scoring. Roxas followed that with a three-pointer, followed by a put-back by redshirt-junior Natasha Thames.
The Musketeers refused to go away, though. Backed by a gutsy performance from junior point guard Shatyra Hawkes and redshirt-senior center Jessica Pachko, Xavier clawed back from a five-point deficit with about three minutes to go.
Temple repeatedly hurt its own cause down the stretch with sloppy play, finishing with 17 turnovers on the night.
“We turned the ball over at key times that resulted in easy buckets for them,” Cardoza said. “If we don’t turn the ball over, the basketball game is ours to be taken.”
Trailing by one with nine seconds remaining and inbounding the ball under their own basket, Hawkes found Pachko for the game-winning bucket, as Temple sophomore point guard Tyonna Williams came up short on a buzzer beater on the Owls’ final possession.
Pachko led the Musketeers with 14 points and nine rebounds on 7-of-10 shooting. Hawkes proved to be a nuisance all night for the Owls, as she finished with 13 points on a 6-of-9 shooting night.
Senior center Victoria Macaulay led the way for Temple with 15 points and six rebounds. She was noticeably distraught following the game.
“We’re basically just losing our heads,” Macaulay said. “Careless turnovers.”
After another heartbreaking loss, the Owls remain two wins away from solidifying a spot in the A-10 Tournament, and Xavier was easily the most beatable team they had left on the schedule. Temple’s final three games consists of first place Dayton, sixth place Butler and fifth place Fordham.
Despite the seemingly rough road ahead, Cardoza said this season has taught her to expect the unexpected.
“It puts our backs against a wall,” Cardoza said. “This year, [‘on paper’] doesn’t mean anything because feel like they can come in here and beat us. We’ve been an up and down team depending on who we play.”
Despite Cardoza’s attempt at an optimistic outlook, tonight’s loss could very well come back to haunt Temple.
“I felt like we didn’t want it as much as [Xavier] did,” Cardoza said. “And that’s not good.”