Temple trailed South Florida by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter, but with 24 seconds remaining in the game, the Owls were down by just three.
With several 3-point shooters on the court, Temple pushed the ball down the court, and senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald took the three.
Fitzgerald missed, but Temple collected its own rebound and kicked it out to junior guard Alliya Butts, who took a shot from behind the arc. The shot was off, resulting in another offensive rebound and a final failed attempt at a three from junior guard Khadijah Berger.
Despite three opportunities to tie the game against No. 23 South Florida, the Owls encountered the same shooting woes they faced all game as they lost 55-51 against the Bulls on Sunday in McGonigle Hall.
“This is a tough loss,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We weren’t making shots and we couldn’t find ways to get an easy bucket to go in.”
This loss marked the end of a 12-game win streak for the Owls (16-4, 6-1 American Athletic Conference) and was their first conference loss.
Temple, a team that has four players averaging points in double digits, often has success offensively, though the shots weren’t falling for the Owls in this game. Temple shot 16-62, or just above 25 percent compared to South Florida’s 40 percent. Temple’s three-point game also struggled, as the Owls made five of 27 attempts from behind the arc.
“We made a lot of mistakes that prevented us from winning the game,” Cardoza said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, but a lot of shooting that ball well had to do with them and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities they were giving us.”
Fitzgerald, who averages 17.9 points per game, finished the game with 14, scoring eight of those off free throws. Fitzgerald struggled from the field, shooting 3-20.
“The whole game, my mindset was to get to the basket or shoot the mid-range, and they stopped me from getting to the basket,” Fitzgerald said. “But today it just wasn’t falling, so i had to figure something else out to get us going as a team.”
With Temple’s leading scorer having an off day and the team not having much offensive production from other players, the Owls ended the first half down by 11 points and the third quarter by 14.
Temple fought back in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Bulls 22-12. At the start of the quarter, the Owls found themselves in the biggest point deficit they had seen yet, down 16 points. Then, Berger made a layup and hit two quick three-pointers, scoring her first points of the game and bringing the Owls within eight over the course of a minute.
“It was a good feeling,” Berger said. “I knew coach was depending on me to come in and make shots because, like she said, the first half, we weren’t making shots. So my main mindset was coming in, do the best I can do, and shoot the ball with confidence.”
Berger finished the game 3-of-6 from three-point range with 11 points. She was the third-highest scorer for Temple. Butts scored 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
As the Owls gained confidence late in the game, their defensive play improved as well. In the first half, Temple was outrebounded 26-14, but cut the differential to one in the second half. Temple also found success in forcing turnovers, as the Owls recorded seven steals in the second half. Butts led the team in steals with five, tying a season high.
The Owls can now focus on their next game against the top team in conference Connecticut, which is ranked No. 1 in the country. Temple will play the Huskies on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CaptainAMAURAca. Follow The Temple News on Twitter @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.