Coach Dawn Staley has often referred to her team’s inexperience as both a negative and a positive this season.
“They don’t know a lot,” Staley said after the team’s victory over Stony Brook Wednesday. “…but it allows them to play without fear.”
Though this attribute brought the Owls within minutes of achieving the biggest win in program history, it also led the Owls down the path of defeat against visiting No. 1 Maryland, Sunday at the Liacouras Center.
“Certainly our kids can walk away from this knowing we gave them a run for their money,” Staley said after the loss.
And run is what both teams did.
Despite not being at full strength, the Owls were able to turn what seemed to be on paper “The Tale of the Tortoise and the Hare” into a glimpse of a race between Seabiscuit versus Secretariat.
The teams alternated scoring stretches as they approached the final straightaway nearly deadlocked, with Maryland gripping to a one point lead at 63-62.
Up until that point the race couldn’t have been scripted better. It would have given the most confident gambler trembles and the most prepared trainer jitters, as both teams capitalized on opportunities in an attempt to pull away.
Maryland, which has struggled against the press this season, turned the ball over 21 times, allowing Temple to capitalize with 28 points.
Temple, at a distinct size advantage due to Lady Comfort’s team suspension, gave up 11 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points to the Terps.
Both teams shot lights out from the charity stripe, missing only three of a combined 35 free throw attempts.
But experience proved to be all too important as the Owls faltered down the stretch and Maryland shut the door with a 16-4 run, pulling a whole horse length ahead on the scoreboard.
Yet the warning shot has been fired by Temple to the Atlantic Ten Conference. Though hovering the line of .500 and running in the back of the bunch thus far, their strong showing against the No. 1 team in the country proved the road to the A-10 title must still go through the Owls.
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at email@example.com.