With one minute, 13 seconds remaining in the game, the silence in McGonigle Hall allowed a single fan’s voice to be heard.
“Calm down, Houston! You’re going to break our scoreboard!”
The Cougars had scored their 99th point, and the scoreboard didn’t look like it would fit three digits.
The fan’s theory wasn’t tested, however, as Houston didn’t score again and the Owls lost, 99-75, against their American Athletic Conference opponent on Tuesday night.
“You can’t win basketball games if you don’t defend,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “Sometimes, it’s hard for us to score, so if it’s hard for us to score, we definitely have to work harder to make the other team not score. And right now, we’re not working harder.”
Temple (9-8, 1-4 The American) gave up 15 3-pointers, allowing Houston (15-5, 4-2 The American) to shoot 57.7 percent from the perimeter. Prior to this game, Temple was fourth in the conference in 3-point defense, holding its opponent to about five per game.
“Sometimes I think we’re so afraid of getting beat off the dribble that we don’t extend all the way out to the three-point shooter,” Cardoza said. “Then when we do extend all the way out, we just run by and then they just go by us, so it’s a double whammy.”
The Cougars started out hot, making 11 of their 3-pointers in the first half to give them a 17-point lead`midway through the game. Temple wasn’t able to catch up despite shooting 46.4 percent from the field and having three players score in double digits.
The Owls have now lost five of their past six, and in those five losses, they have given up an average of 86.2 points per game.
“Our goal is to hold teams under 60 points, and the last five games, I don’t think we’ve been anywhere near close,” Cardoza said. “We’re not committed on that side of the basketball. At some point, you’ve just got to have pride and not want teams to score on you.”
Despite Temple’s defensive woes, freshman guard Emani Mayo picked up the defense in the second half, helping the Owls hold the Cougars to 41 points compared to 58 in the first half.
“The fact that she’s a freshman that’s able to go out there and play 40 minutes and score 14 points, and in the second half defend one of their best players, that’s something that I can be proud of,” Cardoza said.
“It felt good to play 40 minutes and play hard the whole time,” Mayo said. “I just try to stay locked in and try to do my part.”
In addition to scoring 14, Mayo recorded three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Freshman forward Breanna Perry led the Owls with seven rebounds to tie her career-high. She also had eight points. Temple finished the night with 33 rebounds compared to Houston’s 35.
Offensively, the Owls found some success. Senior guard Tanaya Atkinson and freshman forward Mia Davis also contributed to Temple’s total, adding 20 points each to Temple’s 75. Davis also went 9-for-11 from the free-throw line and pulled in six rebounds.
“Honestly, I feel like the last few games that we’ve played, if we actually defended, we would have had a chance if we would have really bought into locking guys up and not letting them score,” Cardoza said.
Temple’s next opponent is conference foe Connecticut, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. The teams will play on Saturday at McGonigle Hall.