There were 18 seconds to go in the third quarter on Wednesday when Wichita State redshirt-senior forward Rangie Bessard demanded the ball in the post. With her back to the basket, Bessard turned around in the air and shot over senior guard Tanaya Atkinson’s outstretched arm.
The ball bounced around the rim, off the backboard and into the hoop.
“They were making everything, and I mean every jump shot,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “Whether it’s challenged or not, they were just making everything.”
Temple (10-15, 2-10 American Athletic Conference) traveled to Wichita State for the first time in program history and lost, 88-81. The Owls have lost 10 of their past 11 games including three in a row. Cardoza said Temple’s size was a disadvantage defensively against the Shockers (11-16, 6-7 The American).
Led by an efficient outing from Bessard, Wichita State shot 70 percent from the field against the Owls to set a single-game program record. Bessard scored a career-high 38 points on 13 made field goals and 10 made free throws.
She shot 76 percent from the floor, 50 percent from behind the 3-point arc and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line.
“She’s hard to defend,” Cardoza said. “A post player like [sophomore forward] Shantay [Taylor], it’s almost an impossible task for her to guard because [Bessard] can take her to the outside and that’s something that Shantay’s not comfortable with. When Tanaya and [freshman forward] Mia [Davis] try to guard her on the low block…she’s going away from the defense shooting a fadeaway Kevin Durant type shot. We haven’t played against anybody that takes shots like that.”
The Owls didn’t only have issues guarding Bessard. Three other Shockers ended the game with double figures in scoring. Senior forward Angiee Tompkins scored 17 points, and senior guard Jeliah Preston scored 11 points off the bench. Junior forward Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage made all four of her field-goal attempts to contribute 10 points.
Cardoza said initially the game plan was to try to play half-court defense. When the Owls fell down by double digits at halftime, she told the team to apply full-court pressure. Though the press saw some success, it also made for easy layups when the Shockers were able to break it.
With five minutes, 26 seconds left in the game, the Owls cut Wichita State’s lead down to eight points. Temple’s pressure defense, however, led to Bessard getting uncontested shots under the hoop on the Shockers’ next three offensive possessions.
“[The defensive pressure] worked a little bit, but obviously it’s not something that we do a lot,” Cardoza said. “We gave up some easy buckets.”
The team’s inexperience with running a full-court pressure defense may have affected its performance at the free-throw line, Cardoza added.
Atkinson scored 22 points and made eight of her 14 field-goal attempts. Despite the efficient performance in live ball play, she only shot 60 percent at the free-throw line.
Temple shot 50 percent from the free-throw line, only making 11-of-22 attempts.
“That’s something we’re not used to, picking up in pressing and exerting that much effort,” Cardoza said. “At that point, you’re only playing five guys, and now they get to the free-throw line and they’re not finishing them.”
In the loss, the Owls outrebounded Wichita State 29-26. Temple grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and scored 21 second-chance points to keep itself in the game. Freshman guard Breanna Perry had a team-high five rebounds. She also scored three points and recorded two assists against the Shockers.
Four Owls scored in double figures. Graduate guard Mykia Jones scored 15 points off the bench, freshman guard Emani Mayo also scored 15 points and Davis scored 13.
Temple’s next game is on Sunday at 2 p.m. against UConn (25-0, 12-0 The American). The Huskies are No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
“I felt like our effort was there for 40 minutes,” Cardoza said. “Obviously, there were some mistakes here and there, but you’re going to make mistakes in the game. Overall, this was one of the games that we really fought and we came up on the losing end.”