The women’s basketball team came so close to clinching an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament berth with a win against sixth-place Butler, until the Owls’ best player fouled out.
With two minutes remaining and trailing by three to the Bulldogs, senior center Victoria Macaulay picked up her fifth and final foul, and Temple (12-16, 5-8 A-10) ultimately went on to lose 59-55.
Coach Tonya Cardoza said Butler’s (17-11, 8-5 A-10) confidence skyrocketed once Macaulay was forced out of the game, but she knows that wasn’t the sole reason her team came up short. The Owls committed 17 turnovers, and forced 11.
“I was telling them there was still plenty of time left in the game,” Cardoza said. “And even with her on the bench we were still in the game. It started even before that. I felt like we missed too many easy buckets and turned the ball over in crucial parts of the game.”
Macaulay made it clear she disagreed with some of the calls that didn’t go in her favor, and admitted that the absence of her low-post presence could have hurt the team.
“There were some foul calls that weren’t necessarily fouls,” Macaulay said. “If my body is not out there, there’s no big post in the game. It was really hard [to be watching from the bench.]”
Temple hung tough the whole game up until Macaulay fouled out and Butler eventually entered into the double-bonus. The Owls trailed by just four at halftime, with neither team particularly shooting the ball well in the first 20 minutes.
A few minutes into the second half, Temple sprinted out to an 11-2 run and took a one point lead with roughly 13 minutes left in the game. Three ties ensued in the next seven minutes, with both teams going on a back-and-forth battle until Macaulay’s fouling out signaled the end of a valiant effort by the Owls. With 45 seconds left and Macaulay no longer available, the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run and closed out Temple.
Cardoza said that, other than Macaulay, she doesn’t have anyone that is willing to step up when it matters most.
“We do a good job of competing and having ourselves in basketball games but we’re not making the plays down the stretch,” Cardoza said. “We need someone like Khalif [Wyatt] who is going to make sure we don’t lose the basketball game. Right now we just have a bunch of guys that are going to look around for [Macaulay.]”
Macaulay led the way for Temple with strong double-double performance, notching 21 points and 13 rebounds to go along with five blocked shots. Sophomore guard Rateska Brown chipped in with 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench, but other than that the Owls didn’t get much offensive production. Redshirt-junior power forward Natasha Thames and freshman forward Sally Kabengano had a combined 19 rebounds, but just five points.
“I feel like there are other guys that need to step up and try to help out,” Cardoza said. “There are some times where everyone is just standing around and wants to throw Vic [Macaulay] the ball, and someone else has to step up and make a play. We have guys that are capable of doing that but sometimes they don’t take it amongst themselves to make plays. Obviously there are certain guys that are limited, but we have guys that are capable of doing it, but sometimes they just choose not to for whatever reason.”
At first glance, the most intriguing aspect of Temple’s hard-fought battle was their dominance on the boards. The Owls out-rebounded the Bulldogs 51-35. Butler’s highest rebounder was sophomore guard Taylor Schippers, who pulled in eight, the same amount of Temple’s third highest rebounder of the night, Brown.
However, Cardoza accredited much of Temple’s success on the glass to missing easy shots in the paint.
“Some of it was missing our own layups [and getting the rebound],” Cardoza said. “I feel like we always do a really good job on the offensive boards, but we don’t really capitalize off of it. Sometimes there’s just wasted opportunities.”
Schippers led the way for Butler with 19 points to go along with her eight boards. Junior forward Daress McClung backed that up with 15 points and five rebounds of her own.
With the Owls’ fourth straight loss and only one game remaining in the regular season, Temple is not yet guaranteed a spot in next weekend’s A-10 tournament. The Owls play their final game at home against third place Fordham on Sunday. It’s a formidable match-up, but the Owls have played their best basketball this season as the underdogs.
If Virginia Commonwealth loses to second-place Charlotte tomorrow night, however, Temple will clinch a berth regardless of the outcome of the game against Fordham, although the outcomes of several A-10 games this weekend will go a long way in determining the seeding.
Whether VCU can pull off the upset or not remains to be seen, but either way the Owls would love to finish out the regular season with a bang.
“I believe that once you’re in the A-10 Conference tournament, I’m sure everybody’s light will turn on,” Macaulay said. “Hopefully everybody is on point and working together, and just trying to play for each other and trying to go hard.”
Tyler Sablich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TySablich.