Temple of the AAC goes 1-2 against the Big East

After a win against Georgetown, Temple lost back-to-back games against stiffer Big East competition.

Temple guard Jasha Clinton as she protects the ball from the other team. ERIKA MONN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After a 66-54 loss at Saint John’s University (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten) on Nov. 16, and a 74-71 loss to No. 24 Villanova University (4-0, 0-0 Big East) on Nov. 20, Temple Women’s Basketball (1-3, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) is looking to avoid a three-game losing streak. While Temple held leads in both games, they were eventually overcome by the talent and experience of their opponents.

“I’m disappointed that we’re losing,” said head coach Diane Richardson following the loss against Villanova. “We’re working on things and as long as they’re coachable and we can start working on those things, I’m satisfied with that”

So far, the Owls have played a strong set of non-conference opponents, squaring off against two nationally-ranked opponents in Princeton University (3-1, 0-0 Ivy League) and Villanova along with an undefeated St. John’s team. In the loss against the Wildcats, Temple’s starting lineup contained five players that weren’t on the roster last season, so it’s understandable for the Owls to have a slow start.

Here are some takeaways from Temple’s last two games.

COLD WHEN IT COUNTS

The Owls were in tightly contested matchups this past week, trailing by two points to St. John’s and leading by eight points against Villanova after three quarters. In a season where the Owls aren’t expected to compete, those are only moral victories.

In the fourth quarter, the Owls struggled on both ends of the floor and let the game slip away in both matchups. Against St. John’s and Villanova, the Owls shot a combined 9-of-28 from the field while allowing a combined 15-of-25 from the field in the fourth. No team would be able to string wins together with Temple’s current formula.

Temple needs to adjust their team. The coaching staff has to get the ball into the hands of its best playmakers late in games, and the players have to increase their defensive focus and intensity in the fourth quarter.

“We were taking quick shots and not rebounding the ball,” Richardson said.

In the game against Villanova, Temple was outrebounded 12 to six in the fourth quarter as they could only amount two second-chance points, which doesn’t help a team that missed 11 shots in the final quarter.

The Owls find themselves in a tough spot with being unable to convert down the stretch. Although conference play isn’t for another month, the Owls are ranked in the bottom of the conference in scoring offense and defense, but making up for that in fourth quarter efficiency can go a long way. As long as they keep the score close for the first three quarters of games, fourth-quarter scoring runs can steal wins for the Owls.

None of this is out of the ordinary for a team in Temple’s predicament. The team is young and lacks familiarity with each other. Temple holding leads for as long as they have against quality opponents is a good sign for the Owls, but if they can turn the corner and maintain them, Temple will be on track to return as an AAC contender.

 OFFENSIVE PLAYMAKERS

Temple came into this season needing a major offensive boost. They only averaged 59.7 points per game last season, ranking 10th in The American. They also lost the program’s all-time leading scorer, Mia Davis, after she graduated in Spring 2022, leading Richardson to rely on the transfer portal to build Temple’s 2022 roster.

Senior guard Aleah Nelson came to Temple through the transfer portal, following Richardson from Towson. Nelson, the only Owl that scored double figures in both matchups, is averaging 14.8 points per game this season while dishing out six assists per game.

Junior guard Tarriyonna Gary has also been making her presence known by scoring a career-high 23 points while shooting 77 percent on her three-point attempts against Villanova. However, she was outshined by Wildcats senior forward Maddy Siegrists’ 41 points. Gary certainly isn’t afraid to pull up from distance as she already has 25 three-point attempts on the season. 

“I’m just confident because that’s what I practice for hours every day,” Gary said. “So, Coach believes in me.” 

Despite her shooting success, she is only Temple’s third-leading scorer. Sophomore guard Tiarra East comes in as the second-leading scorer on the season, including a 15-point performance  in the loss at St. John’s.

Gary is continuing to show why Richardson valued her as a transfer. She stretches the floor, makes her open shots and makes contested ones once she gets into her rhythm. Since her rocky start at Princeton, Nelson has returned to her All-Colonial Athletic Association form. With Nelson, Gary and East, Temple has a perimeter unit that can score and force teams to play catch-up. 

ON TAP

The Owls will travel to Saint Joseph’s University (4-0, 0-0 Atlantic 10) on Wednesday night. The Hawks have squeaked two tight victories against the University of Pennsylvania (1-4, 0-0 Ivy) and Vanderbilt University (5-1, 0-0 SEC).

Temple will stay in the state and travel to Bucknell University on Nov. 27 (1-3, 0-0).  The Bison are coming off a 65-58 overtime win over Cornell (1-3, 0-0 Ivy).

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