Temple experienced a long delay on its flight to Charlotte, but coach Tonya Cardoza insists that had no affect whatsoever in the Owls’ 66-43 loss to the 49ers.
“We played a veteran group of guys,” Cardoza said. “We had our opportunities but we just didn’t perform hard enough down the stretch, and it’s hard to be a veteran group like that when you don’t perform well when it matters most.”
The game was within reach until the final twelve minutes when the Owls (10-12, 3-4) went cold from the floor, failing to score a field goal over that span. They shot 36 percent in the first half, with senior center Victoria Macaulay leading all scorers with 11 points at the break. Charlotte (17-4, 6-1) shot 47 percent in the first half and led 33-25.
With the Owls struggling to get anything going in the second half, their bid for a comeback became much more difficult when Macaulay fouled out with roughly six minutes to go. She scored 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting and grabbed five rebounds before having to take a seat on the bench.
Although Macaulay’s early exit certainly didn’t help matters, Cardoza said it was the way the Owls played as a whole that dug themselves a deficit too deep to overcome. Free throws, normally a strong suit for the Owls, proved to be a downfall in the loss to Charlotte.
“Going into the half we were down eight and we missed eight free throws,” Cardoza said. “Maybe if we make a couple of those and we concentrate better, things would have changed.”
Aside from not scoring a bucket in the final 12 minutes, Temple also failed to score a single point in the game’s final nine minutes as the Owls couldn’t seem to get to the charity strike or find any sort of rhythm. They shot just 21 percent in the second half, their worst half of the season in terms of shooting percentage. Temple shot 57 percent from the free throw line compared to 73 percent for Charlotte, as the 49ers closed the game out fairly easily.
Redshirt-junior power forward Natasha Thames grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds in the Owls’ losing effort, as well as eight points on a 3-of-5 shooting night. Thames played all 40 minutes, notching the third consecutive game in which she’s played at least 35 minutes after averaging just 15 the previous three games. Sophomore point guard Tyonna Williams chipped in with nine points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Four players finished in double-figures for Charlotte, led by junior guard Ny Hammonds who scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Senior forward Amanda Dowe had 12 points and eight rebounds, and freshman guard Kira Gordon had ten points off the bench. Senior forward Jennifer Hailey, who came into the night ranked fourth in scoring in the Atlantic 10 Conference, had ten points and 14 rebounds.
“We were out-matched at just about every position,” Cardoza said. “I feel like in the second half [Charlotte] came out to attack us, and we kind of sat back and let them.”
Looking ahead, the Owls’ next two affairs may come against teams in which they match up much better against. On Sunday Feb. 10 they will take on a St. Louis (9-12, 3-3) team that ranks in the middle of the pack in the A-10 standings much like themselves. On Wednesday Feb. 13, the Owls will face Rhode Island (5-16, 0-6), who is ranked dead last in the A-10. Both games will be played at the Liacouras Center, where Temple is 6-3 on North Broad.
Temple will look to regroup from a tough game against a solid Charlotte squad, and a flight that took much longer than anticipated.
Tyler Sablich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TySablich.