Temple can’t defend Big 5 basketball title in loss to Penn

Penn junior guard Ashley Russell scored a career-high 19 points in the Quakers’ 74-59 win on Wednesday at McGonigle Hall.

Penn freshman guard Katie Kinum (left) and senior guard Tanaya Atkinson look for a loose ball during the Owls' 74-59 loss to the Quakers on Jan. 24 at McGonigle Hall. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

At the end of the third quarter, senior guard Tanaya Atkinson sent up a shot, hoping to diminish Temple’s 15-point deficit against Penn.

As her shot went up, so did the hand of 6-foot-2-inch forward Tori Crawford. The freshman blocked Atkinson’s shot, one of seven for the Quakers in their 74-59 win on Wednesday night at McGonigle Hall.

After her shot was blocked, Atkinson’s shoulders dropped and she hung her head in frustration. The Quakers had held her to a scoreless quarter.

“Tanaya and [freshman forward] Mia [Davis] had a tough time in there because they’re trying to shoot over some really big kids that are just standing there waiting for you, so that’s difficult to play against,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “So you have to make shots.”

The Owls (9-10, 2-2 Big 5, 1-5 The American Athletic Conference) had trouble making their shots, shooting 34.4 percent from the field in their Big 5 loss. With a win, Temple would have stopped its four-game losing streak and earned a share of the Big 5 title with Villanova. With the loss, Penn (10-5, 3-1 Big 5) took the Owls’ spot as co-champs. The Owls were the defending Big 5 champions.

“They came in here, they knew that there was a championship on the line and on our home court, they just took it right to us,” Cardoza said. “It’s disappointing that we let that opportunity slip away.”

Atkinson had a productive first half with 15 points before she was held to just four points in the second half. Atkinson still finished with her 10th double-double of the season, as she pulled in 11 rebounds in addition to her 19 points.

Freshman guard Desiree Oliver also contributed offensively. She scored 14 points in her second game back from injury and shot 4-for-7 from 3-point range. She also ended the night with five assists and four rebounds.

“I feel like my shot was going well, but I needed some more work on the defensive end,” Oliver said.

Freshman guard Desiree Oliver (center) directs Temple’s offense during its 74-59 loss to Penn on Jan. 24 at McGonigle Hall. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Owls trailed, 23-14, after the first quarter. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Penn shot 40.9 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from beyond the arc, acquiring 15 of its first-quarter points from 3-pointers alone.

The Quakers closed the first quarter on a 12-3 run and scored the first six points of the second quarter. Penn junior guard Ashley Russell had a career-high 19 points to lead her team’s four double-figure scorers.

“I felt like today, we were really, really rattled in the head and once the game started to get away from us, we just lost our composure,” Cardoza said.

The Owls turned the ball over 16 times, and the Quakers took advantage. Penn scored 17 points off turnovers while only giving the ball up nine times.

The turnovers interrupted Temple’s usually fast-paced offense and once the Quakers began to full-court press, the Owls had to change their strategy.

“I think the press did slow us down, considering we like to get out in transition and push the ball, so I do think the press played a big part,” Oliver said.

This game marked the final nonconference matchup for Temple this season. The Owls have 10 more American Athletic Conference games. They will face South Florida on Sunday at noon. The Bulls (15-5, 5-2 The American) beat Temple, 89-73, on Jan. 10 at McGonigle Hall and is No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

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