Temple falls to Pacific at the buzzer

The Owls offense did not have enough firepower to keep up as they fell 79-78 at the Briann January Classic Saturday. They have now lost four of their last five games.

Guard Tarriyonna Gary played a pivotal role in Temple's comeback, but the Owls fell just short against Pacific in their final game in the Briann January Classic. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Women’s Basketball entered the Briann January Classic in desperate need of some momentum having lost three straight games. After taking down Xavier on Friday, the Owls had a chance to go 2-0 on the West Coast and come back home sitting at .500 with a win against Pacific.

The Owls were down by as many as 16 points halfway through the third quarter but didn’t quit, battling back to have a chance to win on the final possession. However, guard Aleah Nelson’s inbound pass was tipped, and her final shot attempt hit the front of the rim as the Owls dropped further below .500.

Temple (3-5, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) fell to Pacific (5-3, 0-0 West Coast Conference) 79-78 Saturday afternoon. The Owls have now lost four of their last five games dating back to their game against No. 19 Ole Miss on Nov. 16.

“We challenged her as a leader at halftime, and she went out and showed she’s the leader of this team,” said head coach Diane Richardson about Nelson. “She battled defensively and talked to her teammates to help get us back in the game.”

After the Owls went down by 16 in the third quarter, they slowly crawled back, using a 7-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter to cut Pacific’s lead to single digits. Nelson was a major factor in the second half, 15 of her 17 points occurred in the final 20 minutes.

Temple then cut the lead down to five points with 14 seconds left. The Owls forced a turnover on Pacific’s inbound pass, leading to a corner three from Temple forward Tarriyonna Gary that cut the deficit to just two points with nine seconds remaining. 

Tigers’ head coach Bradley Davis tried to call a timeout after the basket, but he didn’t have any left. The Tigers were assessed a technical foul, awarding the Owls two free throws and the ball, which gave them a golden opportunity to pull off the improbable win. 

However, Nelson only made one, and Pacific held a 79-78 lead with seven seconds on the clock.

“We stepped up on defense, and we knew we had to turn them over,” Richardson said. “I think we caught Pacific off guard and got some steals and some points to bring us back into the game.” 

Richardson called timeout to set up a final play for her squad and seemed to have guard Tiarra East open on the wing, but Nelson could not get her the ball. Her shot dropped to the floor, and Pacific pulled out the narrow victory.

The Owls’ defense struggled to string together stops throughout the game. During the third quarter, Temple had multiple opportunities to narrow the gap but couldn’t get any closer as Pacific converted their shots. By the time the Owls stopped the Tigers, it was too late.

Pacific shot a very efficient 48 percent from the field and took advantage of Temple’s defensive lapses for open layups. The Owls’ defense continued to show their ability to force turnovers, as they forced Pacific to turn the ball over 23 times for 22 points.

In the Owls’ last six opening quarters, they were outscored by 30 points. The Owls finally started hot out of the gate today, making five of their first 10 shots. However, when Temple’s offense began to sputter, Pacific took a 15-13 lead near the end of the first quarter, and Temple did not regain the lead for the rest of the game. 

“We have had a slow start in the games that we lost, so we were really intentional about trying to score early,” Richardson said. “We kind of lost it in the second and third quarters and then had to crawl our way back.”

Temple struggled from behind the arc, shooting just 3-19 from three-point range. All three of the Owls’ makes came from Gary, who finished with 11 points. The team shot 46 percent from the field in the second half, which helped them outscore Pacific 31-19 in the fourth quarter.

Temple lost the rebounding battle 47-35 and had no answer for Pacific forward Elizabeth Elliott, who made her presence felt down low with 19 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.

“The game plan for this particular game was to attack the rim, and we did not do that early on and ended up digging a hole for ourselves,” Richardson said. “We knew our advantage with this team was to get to the rim, and once we did that and stopped shooting threes, we saw a difference.”

Temple will look to bounce back when they return to The Liacouras Center after nearly three weeks away to face Penn (5-2, 0-0 Ivy League) on Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.

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