Natasha Thames and Shi-Heria Shipp took the floor prior to tipoff Sunday against Villanova (9-1) at McGonigle Hall as the lone two seniors on the team.
Starting adjacent to them were junior guard Tyonna Williams, sophomore guard Erica Covile and freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald. The Owls (6-4) saw a junior, a sophomore and another freshman come off the bench in Rateska Brown, Meghan Roxas and Safiya Martin.
On the other side, Philadelphia-area native Devon Kane stood as the Wildcats’ lone starting senior on this day, with a pair of juniors, a sophomore and a freshman rounding out the Villanova starting lineup. Villanova’s bench help primarily consisted of a junior, two sophomores and a freshman.
Two teams, three seniors and a boatload of inexperience.
And, sure enough, it was the youth that took center stage as sophomore Caroline Coyer dumped a team-high 19 points for the winning Wildcats, while Fitzgerald led Temple with 23 points and nine rebounds en route to the 59-58 Villanova victory.
What also glared at a final box score onlooker was the turnover column, which read 16 Temple miscues compared to Villanova’s seven.
“We had some really bad turnovers,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “There was one point where I think we were up by seven and we had two crucial turnovers that ended in layups from them.”
That aforementioned point came while Temple was in the midst of a seven-point run early in the second half before turning the ball over four times in a three-minute span that helped kick-start a subsequent 18-4 Villanova run.
The Owls also had several turnovers, including a big one in which Fitzgerald hit the ball off her leg mid-dribble with precious seconds left on the clock with Temple down by what wound up to be the end result of 59-58.
The ball then went out of bounds with 3.7 seconds left and led to Temple’s next possession ending in a desperation heave from Fitzgerald as the Owls had just 1.7 seconds to get a shot off.
“They’re not even pressing you, so these are unforced turnovers,” Cardoza said. “Not one bit of press and they’re just mindless turnovers, too, where we were just handing them turnovers.”
“One time they just took the ball right out of our hands and went down for the layup,” Cardoza added. “You can’t win games like that against a team like Villanova. They’re going to control the basketball game so when you’re turning the ball over in the process, it’s going to be difficult to beat them. I felt like we had some bad turnovers.”
Overall, Villanova notched 17 points courtesy of Temple turnovers.
“I had some unforced turnovers toward the end of the game that I shouldn’t have had,” Fitzgerald said. “Overall I think I did okay, but I have to do better on defense, sit down and guard and keep them in front of me like coach asks me to.”
Of course, the turnover issue isn’t anything new.
Across 10 total games played this season, the Owls have racked up double-digit turnover totals in each contest. Their 82-76 loss to a ranked Syracuse team was tough to take for the team, and even tougher when considering the season-high 26 turnovers compiled compared to Syracuse’s 12.
Temple’s 20-point loss to Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s saw the Owls commit 19 such miscues, while Temple has turned the ball over 20 times or more in three games this season.
Sunday marked another close contest ending in a loss and a significant turnover differential in favor of the other team.
In this clash of two teams with talent and inexperience to boot, the Owls fell short by one point, and nine turnovers.
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @daParent93.