NORFOLK, VA – Going into Tuesday’s game against Connecticut, Temple coach Tonya Cardoza faced countless questions about her 14 years as an assistant coach underneath UConn coach Geno Auriemma and how that would affect the women’s basketball team’s performance. Well, after the Huskies throttled the Owls, 90-36, the answer was fairly obvious — not very much.
The game started off well enough for Temple. After UConn won the tipoff, the Owls forced a turnover and headed down court.
And that’s where the positives stop.
Senior forward Jasmine Stone missed a layup and Huskies junior forward Maya Moore hit back-to-back three-pointers to give UConn an early lead and they never looked back. The Huskies started the game off on a 33-5 run which included scoring 20 straight at one point. UConn’s initial effort was simply too much for the Owls, Cardoza said.
“That’s not the way we intended to come out,” Cardoza said. “They jumped on us right from the start. Because we don’t score a lot of points…it was pretty tough to even put up a good fight.”
“Honestly, [UConn’s performance in the first half] was just like, ‘Wow’,” junior guard Shaqwedia Wallace added. “Everytime they shot the ball it was going in. It is a little disheartening when everything they throw up is going in. I felt like as long as we all tried to stick together that’s all that would matter in the end.”
They never let up, as the Owls entered halftime trailing, 55-11. The Owls shot a pedestrian 15.6 percent in the first half, while the Huskies shot 77.8 percent from the field.
Moore finished with 19 points in just 16 minutes of playing time. Senior forward Tina Charles, the Big East Player of the Year, added 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting. No member of UConn’s starting lineup played more than 20 minutes as Auriemma pulled his starters for good after just a few minutes had passed in the second half. Even though Moore’s playing time was limited, she still dominated, Cardoza said.
“Maya is just a competitor,” Cardoza said. “She doesn’t care who she is, she wants to go out and kill you. That’s how she approached this game. From the moment the ball left her hand, it went in and she didn’t stop. That’s just the competitor in her and that’s why she’s so good.”
Wallace led the way for the Owls with 12 points on 4-for-17 shooting. The Owls as a whole shot 23.3 percent in the game, including 20.8 percent from three-point range. Sophomore forward Kristen McCarthy, who entered the game as Temple’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, was held to just two points on 1-for-10 shooting.
The 54 point loss not only gave UConn its 74th straight win, an NCAA record, but it was also the largest margin of defeat in any second round Tournament game ever.
While the loss might be disheartening, the Owls still had a successful season. Initially picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Ten Conference, the Owls won 25 games en route to their seventh straight 20 win season and an appearance in the A-10 Championship game. On top of that, by defeating James Madison on Sunday, the Owls also picked up the program’s fourth Tournament victory. In the end, the team will remember the high moments of the season, Cardoza said.
“We’re disappointed in the loss, but I’m so very proud of us for getting to this point and how hard we worked all year,” Cardoza said. “This loss is no indication of our entire season. The most important thing is making sure our players know that.”
“We worked hard all season and nobody expected us to be in this position,” junior forward Marli Bennett agreed. “Nobody expected us to be contending for the A-10 championship, I’m so proud of my teammates for what we accomplished. We might have the smallest team in the NCAA, but we fight hard.”
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org