Temple couldn’t overcome first half in loss to Villanova

Temple Women’s Basketball played better in the second half Sunday afternoon, but Villanova jumped out to a large lead in the first half and stayed there for the win.

Temple Women's Basketball struggled to contain Villanova and lost 90-62 Sunday afternoon on the road. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Since the beginning of the season, Temple Women’s Basketball head coach Diane Richardson has preached the importance of starting off hot. She has said her team relies on getting points on the board in the first quarter and setting the tone with tough defense.

That was a key focus heading into Temple’s matchup against Villanova, especially because Villanova guard Lucy Olsen entered the game averaging 22 points.

However, the Owls started the game out flat, and the Wildcats took advantage. Olsen finished the game with 40 points, but her 26 in the first half was the spark her team needed to pick up the win.

Temple (2-3, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) lost to Villanova (2-1, 0-0 Big East Conference) 90-62 Sunday afternoon in the Finneran Pavilion. The Owls were outmatched on offense and could not keep up with Olsen and the rest of the Wildcats.

“It was a tough day,” Richardson said. “Villanova came out guns blazing. They really wanted this game, and followed their gameplan.”

After forward Rayne Tucker hit a jump shot on their first possession, the Owls went straight to the full-court press, looking to cause some disruption and set a tone for the game. Instead, Villanova held firm and earned a five-point lead in the first 10 minutes.

The game became out of hand from there, and Villanova began to take over. The Wildcats shot more than 56 percent from the field, outscoring the Owls 23-9 in the frame thanks to separate 7-0 and 9-0 runs to bookend the quarters.

Olsen scored 14 of her team’s 23 points in the second quarter. She missed just two field goals in the period, and the Owls could not find answers to stop her all game. No matter how many defenders tried to guard her, Olsen found a way to get the ball in the basket.

Olsen’s performance lifted her teammates as well. The Wildcats entered the game shooting 17 percent from three. Today, they made 7-14 threes as a unit, though the team shot 3-8 not including Olsen’s numbers. 

“They’re giving them some magic food or something back there,” Richardson said. “In all seriousness, Lucy played a good game, and we couldn’t stop her. She worked every second of the game.”

Despite their poor first half, Temple put together a solid second half against Villanova. The Owls scored 38 points on 16-39 shooting in the final 20 minutes, but their deficit was too large to overcome. 

Guard Aleah Nelson had her best game of the season after leading the team in scoring last year. She had 16 points on 7-15 shooting from the field, including 1-5 from three. The Owls could not find anyone to step up and lead their scoring, which hurt their ability to keep up.

The Owls had a strong performance from guard Tarriyonna Gary. She made her first start this season despite starting all but three games last year, and she had 12 points on 3-17 shooting. She also provided some solid defense throughout the contest.

“I’ve gotta get in the gym more,” Gary said. “I felt good though. I’m always trying to do my best every time I step onto the floor.”

Temple’s frontcourt struggled against Villanova. The unit added just 19 points, all from Tucker and freshman forward Jaleesa Molina, and did not keep up on defense. Villanova’s ball movement created mismatches against the forwards and allowed too many opportunities for open shots.

“We need to prioritize defense and following the scout,” Tucker said. “Our coaches work hard on those. That’s how we’ll be better next game.”

The Owls will be looking for a big bounce-back game at home Wednesday. They will try to break their losing streak against Saint Joseph’s (3-0, 0-0 Atlantic 10) on Nov. 22 at 6 p.m.

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