Pulling off an overtime win against Kentucky last week was grueling, especially with the constant lead changes and up-beat tempo.
But the women’s basketball team fell behind early and could not play at the sluggish speed of Villanova’s offense on Friday.
The visiting Wildcats edged out Temple 66-57 at the Liacouras Center to capture their second straight Big 5 title and improve to 9-1 overall. Temple fell to 3-3 on the season.
A slow start put the Owls behind in the initial minutes of the game. Sophomore center Candice Dupree ended the first half by hitting five of six shots to narrow ‘Nova’s lead to just five at intermission. Dupree finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Cynthia Jordan added 10 point and five assists.
The Owls hit their first five shots of the second half, but the largest lead they could muster was three points.
“We had the momentum but I can remember we had a few missed jumpers, a couple of turnovers and we didn’t stay disciplined,” Temple coach Dawn Staley said. “[We didn’t] stick to the game plan to get the ball inside. Candice got 20 attempts, but she probably needed 40 in order for us to win the game.”
Temple’s defense could not contain the Wildcats’ Liad Suez, who scored a team-high 19 points, and ‘Nova’s 39 percent shooting from behind the arc kept Temple at a safe distance.
“They have eight players on their roster who can shoot three’s,” Staley said. “[Suez] is a tremendous offensive player. She hit some great shots. The three ball hurt us tonight.”
The steady three-point threat kept the Owls’ defense out of synch. And with Temple guarding the perimeter closer than usual, the Wildcats penetrated to the basket with ease and found more open looks along the perimeter.
“They were able to capitalize on our inability to match up,” Staley said. “We knew the way we were gonna play, matching up, but the moment we relaxed they hit the big shot. Any time they got an open shot, we knew they were gonna knock it down.”
‘Nova’s slower-than-average pace also added some additional pressure to Temple’s defense.
“They’ll just wait; they wont even take the first look,” Staley said. “They’ll tire you out, wait until you’re at your weakest moment and then they’ll knock down their shots. We knew we were gonna have to rest on offense today, but the moment we rested on defense, they made us pay.”
Up next for the Owls is a tough road match up against nationally ranked Louisiana State Monday night.
“[LSU] does not have anybody that can stop Candice,” Staley said. “Not a lot of teams have somebody who can stop Candice. We gotta continue to ride her until we can get some other people involved.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.