As the Owls surrounded the circle for the opening tip, their lack of size was apparent.
The opposing Connecticut starting lineup featured four players who were at least 6 feet tall. Temple, on the other hand, was playing with four guards and gave up inches at each position on the floor.
After the ball was tipped and play began, the Huskies used the size advantage to defeat the Owls, 92-58.
Knowing that taking down the second-ranked Huskies would be a daunting task, coach Tonya Cardoza’s message to her team prior to the game was to be confident.
“A lot of times teams lose the game before it even played because of the name on the front of the jersey,” Cardoza said. “I just wanted our guys to compete and enjoy the experience.”
It was a slow start for the Owls, as they ran into a UConn defense ranked first in Division I in field goal percentage against.
The Huskies jumped out to a 13-0 lead, using their defense to keep Temple off the scoreboard for the first 3 1/2 minutes of play.
UConn’s size up front kept the Owls from doing what they like to do – driving and getting to the basket.
“It’s a huge disadvantage for us,” Cardoza said of her opponent’s size. “They’re so big.”
“They’re sitting there [in the lane] waiting to block our shots,” Cardoza added. “It even got to the point where they started blocking jump shots.”
On the other end of the floor, the Huskies were too much for the Owls inside. Temple allowed 56 points in the paint as UConn went on to shoot more than 50 percent from the floor on the day.
Coach Tonya Cardoza said her team just did not have the bodies to defend the Huskies’ bigs.
“There’s no way we can guard them,” Cardoza said. “We’re way too small to try and match up with them.”
Temple’s young guards continued to play well in the loss. Freshman Alliya Butts appeared unfazed in her first matchup with the Huskies, scoring 14 points and hitting four of her nine attempts from 3-point range.
Feyonda Fitzgerald continued to score in her sixth-man role of the bench, netting a team high 16. It was a much-improved performance from her two games against UConn last year, in which she averaged six points per game.
For Butts and fellow freshmen Tanaya Atkinson and Khadijah Berger, it was the first of many games against the Huskies in the future.
“I think it’s a great experience for them to be playing in that environment and to see what it’s like, because they’re going to have to do this for the next couple of years,” Cardoza said.
Junior Mama Traore got her first start of the season against the Huskies … Erica Covile bounced back from a three-point outing in the game against South Florida with 13 points and 10 rebounds … This Owls have lost to the Huskies by an average of 38 points through the last three meetings between the two teams.
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.
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