Temple Women’s Basketball head coach Diane Richardson knew taking down No. 23 Ole Miss would be a tall task in her team’s first road game. After a complete team win against Bucknell on Nov. 11, Richardson hoped her team would carry some momentum into Oxford, Mississippi, Wednesday night.
However, Temple’s poor first half created a hole that was too big to come back from, and the Owls were handed their second loss of the season.
Temple (2-2, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) fell to Ole Miss (2-1, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) 80-63. The Owls struggled on both ends of the floor in their largest loss of the young season.
The Owls started the game slow on both ends, which mimicked their start against Georgetown last week. Temple made just two field goals in the first quarter but often made it to the free throw line, earning nine points off guard Tiarra East’s free throws.
“We are starting too slow,” Richardson said. “We outplayed them in the second half in every statistical category. If we had started sooner, we could have come away with a win against a Power Five opponent.”
The Owls could not get a stop in the first quarter, and Ole Miss shot an impressive 66 percent from the field, opening the game with a 24-13 lead.
The second quarter was more of the same, as Temple continued to struggle on both ends of the court and found itself down 42-26 at halftime. Ole Miss had its way down low against the Owls’ frontcourt, scoring 20 points in the paint to help build its 16-point lead.
In the third quarter, Temple finally began to show some life. Forward Rayne Tucker and guard Demi Washington hit back-to-back threes off Ole Miss turnovers midway through the quarter to spark a 10-0 run. Temple cut Ole Miss’ lead down to 11 points, the smallest deficit since the first quarter.
“I told them that we had to play tougher defense and we had to get stops one at a time,” Richardson said. “Then they went out and got those stops and we went on that run, but that’s something we needed to do earlier in the game.”
Despite their momentum, the Owls could not overcome their first-half struggles and get any closer than 11 points. The Rebels used a 9-2 run to close the third quarter and built their lead back up to 18, eliminating Temple’s comeback hopes.
Defensively, Temple was a mixed bag. The Rebels consistently found themselves with open looks near the basket, shooting 52 percent from the field. Five Rebels ended the game in double digits. However, Temple forced 19 turnovers and turned them into 25 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep the game close.
“We did not play good help defense, so if somebody got by us then we were not in a help-side position,” Richardson said. “We also missed a lot of those opportunities and 50-50 balls on the floor.”
Outside of their 10-0 run in the third, Temple’s offense could not find its groove. The Owls managed to shoot just 24 percent from the field in the first half while finishing with two more turnovers than field goals. They shot better in the second half while limiting their turnovers, but still shot just 34 percent and 29 percent from three.
East led Temple’s offense, scoring 24 points on 7-24 shooting. Washington was the only other Owl in double figures, putting up 14 points and delivering some tough finishes around the basket.
East and Washington combined for Temple’s first 20 points of the game while the rest of the team struggled to get going. The Owls hit 11 of their 14 free throws in the game, including 10 of 12 in the first half. When the offense couldn’t find a rhythm, Temple’s free throws kept them close initially.
“That’s what kept us in the game in the first half was getting to the line,” Richardson said. “We knew that if we attacked the middle that they would foul, and that is what they did.”
Temple will remain on the road as they battle Big 5 rival Villanova (1-1, 0-0 Big East Conference) Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.