PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Dawn Staley’s New Year’s resolution might be to get her old team back.
The women’s basketball coach witnessed what she called her worst loss in eight seasons at the helm of Temple when the Owls fell to No. 6 Rutgers, 70-34, Sunday at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
“Sometimes basketball throws you a curveball,” Staley said. “Having a short memory is good right now.”
Temple (7-7) played a horrendous first half, shooting 21 percent while only converting three field goals. Sophomore guard LaKeisha Eaddy hit a three-pointer to open the scoring but the Owls managed only 11 more points, getting outscored, 38-14, in the first frame.
“I’m caught by surprise how our team performed,” Staley said. “We didn’t execute and attack the basket to score.”
The Owls, whose three-game winning streak was snapped with the loss, turned the ball over 13 times in the first half. The Scarlet Knights scored 19 points off those mishaps. Temple went into scoring droughts of 8:31 and 7:14 while Rutgers (9-2) scored 22 points during those stretches.
“They got all the weapons,” Staley said of Rutgers.
Led by terrific plays from their guards, the Scarlet Knights shot 65 percent from the floor and 80 percent from behind the three-point line.
Senior Matee Ajavon shot 6-of-9 for 14 points in the first half. Sophomore Epiphanny Prince scored nine first-half points and finished with 20 points and a team-high six steals.
“Epiphanny’s a silent assassin,” Staley said. “She has a gift for the game. She’s got the goods.”
Prince said she’s just “taking the shots they gave me.”
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, who once told Prince not to attend the university because she thought Prince wouldn’t work hard enough, is glad Prince didn’t take her advice.
“Epiphanny is special,” Stringer said. “She’s extremely humble. She just cares about winning.”
With the Owls trailing by 24 points at the half, Staley said she just wanted to see some positives in the second half.
“Just to play with some heart,” Staley said. “Play with some integrity. It’s very uncharacteristic.”
Ashley Morris was the only Owl to get the message.
The senior guard scored the Owls’ first 11 point in the second half and finished with 15 points, the only Owl in double figures.
“I’m not going to stop fighting,” Morris said.
Staley appreciates Morris’ play, but said Morris cannot do it on her own.
“She plays hard, puts her heart on the line,” Staley said. “She needs help. People just have to do their jobs. Ashley’s doing her job. We need others to do her job.”
For Staley and the Owls, their job is to put this game behind them.
Asked what she expects to take from the game, Staley said, “Absolutely nothing. We’re burying this tape.”
This was the Owls’ sixth game this season versus ranked teams. They are 1-5. . . . With the loss the Owls fell to 4-3 in December. . . . The Owls had kept their last two opponents under 50 points. . . . The Scarlet Knights hold a 32-9 series advantage over the Owls. . . . Temple’s last trip to Rutgers was Jan. 19, 2006 when they pulled off an upset win over the ninth-ranked Scarlet Knights, 48-47, breaking Rutgers’ 20-game winning streak at home.
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.