Temple’s comeback effort falls short in loss to Memphis

Temple Women’s Basketball shot just 33 percent and turned the ball over 22 times in the 59-57 loss to the Tigers Sunday afternoon.

Temple Women's basketball saw their two-game winning streak snapped after guard Tristen Taylor missed a three at the buzzer against Memphis Sunday.| ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After an abysmal first half, Temple Women’s Basketball found itself down double digits early in the third quarter. The Owls began to find their groove and slowly closed the gap, but were constantly held at arm’s length. 

Temple continued to battle in the fourth quarter and trimmed the Tigers’ lead to just two. Memphis missed two free throws with eight seconds left and guard Tristen Taylor pushed the ball up court and fired a three as time expired. The shot clanked off the right side of the rim, sealing the loss for Temple.

Temple (9-8, 3-2 American Athletic Conference) fell to Memphis (5-10, 1-4 AAC) 59-57 Sunday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. Temple entered the game with a two-game win streak and tied for second place in the AAC. The loss to the Tigers, who sit near the bottom of the conference standings, will hurt the Owls as conference play ramps up.

“I am truly embarrassed at our effort today,” said head coach Diane Richardson. “To be quite honest with you, I think quite a few people should have stepped up today.”

The first half was one of Temple’s worst offensive halves all season. The Owls shot an abysmal 5-24 from the field and had just 16 points at halftime. Temple ended the game shooting 17-51 from the field and 7-22 from three.

The Owls, who usually win the turnover battle, were plagued by them throughout the game. Temple turned it over 12 times in the first half and 22 times in the game, and Memphis turned those extra possessions into 10 points. Temple’s defense provided no help as they were only able to force 12 turnovers all game. It was Temple’s second straight game with 20 or more turnovers.

“Obviously when you have 22 turnovers, you are not taking care of the ball,” Richardson said. “They played us a zone and usually we don’t turn the ball over that often against a zone so we have to be cognizant of what our game plan is.”  

Temple finally found its offense down 11 early in the third quarter and started to chip at the Tigers’ lead. The Owls shot 50 percent from the field in the third quarter, making four three-pointers to bring the Memphis lead down to as little as two points, but could never take the lead away.

Guard Aleah Nelson led the charge offensively for Temple, finishing with 19 points and four of the team’s six three-pointers. She scored eight of her points in the third quarter, helping the Owls creep back into the game. No other Owl joined Nelson in double figures, as forward Ines Piper was the second-leading scorer with eight points.

“Coach Richardson pulled me aside and told me to step up,” Nelson said. “We had a couple lapses near the end, but I never put my head down because I knew we still had a chance to win this game.”

The Owls committed 26 fouls, which Memphis made the most of, going 20-30 from the charity stripe. Memphis was consistently able to stay in front during the Owls’ comeback attempt due to Temple’s fouling issues. Five different Owls committed four fouls, and Piper ended up fouling out. 

While the Owls attempted to come back, they were never able to take control and held the lead for less than four minutes all game. Memphis was able to stay ahead for the entire second half in a game that saw just two lead changes.

Tiarra East, the Owls’ leading scorer on the season, returned after missing the previous two games with a lower-body injury. Richardson eased East back into action, and she didn’t enter the game until late in the first quarter when she showed signs of rust. East scored just two points shooting 1-6 from the field and ended up fouling out.

“She is on a minutes restriction right now,” Richardson said. “We are just trying to work her back in since she had been off for more than a week.”

Temple is off for the next week before returning to action against AAC-leading Charlotte (11-5, 4-0 AAC) on Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. at The Liacouras Center. 

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