Despite senior guard Qwedia Wallace’s 32 points, Temple lost, 84-75.
Despite hanging tough with Ohio State throughout the game, the women’s basketball team could not hold on in the final minutes, losing its season opener, 84-75, to the No. 7 Buckeyes.
Even with an outstanding offensive performance by senior guard Qwedia Wallace, the Owls had no answer for three-time reigning Big Ten Conference Player of the Year Jantel Lavender who was 16-of-22 from the field with 37 points and 12 rebounds. While the senior center dominated in the paint, Ohio State sophomore guard Tayler Hill and senior guard Brittany Johnson were solid in the backcourt, scoring 16 points each.
“You can’t guard [Lavender] one-on-one, and the thing that was hard is that they surround her with shooters,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “You have to pick your poison, and for the most part, we tried to go and double team her, but a lot of times our guys were afraid to leave shooters wide-open.”
“That’s just being disciplined, and that’s something that we definitely need to work on and focus on,” Cardoza added.
Junior forward Kristen McCarthy scored Temple’s first basket of the season, followed by Wallace’s first three-pointer, which put the Owls up to start the game, 5-0, but they did not lead again after the opening minutes.
Ohio State dominated most of the first half, leading by as many as 11 points before Temple closed the gap to 39-34 at the break. The Buckeyes came out strong in the second half, but the Owls continued to fight, keeping the game within reach by matching the Buckeyes’ intensity.
Junior guard Shey Peddy tallied her second three-pointer of the game, with 12 minutes, 14 seconds remaining, to bring the Owls within two points. A layup by Wallace tied the game, 58-58.
Clutch shooting by Wallace from behind the arc kept the game tight, but Temple could not hold on as Ohio State pulled away in the final two minutes. The Buckeyes shot 51.9 percent in the second half and made clutch free throws down the stretch.
“I thought our guys gave a great effort,” Cardoza said. “They definitely fought to the end. We just had a couple of crucial mistakes on the defensive end that allowed them to get a lot of easy buckets, but I thought Qwedia definitely kept us in the game. She was able to match [Lavender] basket for basket.”
Wallace was 12-of-21 from the field with seven three-pointers, and her 32 points was a career-high.
After the game, the senior guard said the basket felt big throughout the game and that the team has a lot more scoring power this season.
“When you’re hot, you feel like everything you throw up is going to go in, but at the same time, we work hard at it,” Wallace said. “We feel like this is going to be a regular outcome for us.”
As a team, the Owls shot just 43 percent from the field and missed several opportunities from the free throw line, cashing in on only three-of-eight. However, the team finished at an impressive 52.2 percent from downtown and managed to score 75 points against one of the nation’s top teams.
“I definitely think that we’re one of those really good, quality teams that can compete with anyone,” Cardoza said. “We just have to make sure that when we have control, we do control everything that we can. As for the things that we can’t control, that’s fine. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to make shots, but on the defensive end, we have to give a better effort.”
Although the defense lacked throughout the game, the Owls seemed capable offensively. Peddy finished with 10 points and seven assists in her Temple debut, and McCarthy and junior guard Satoria Bell each added nine points.
Temple’s next test comes on the road as the team travels to take on Seton Hall Tuesday night, and after hanging with one of the country’s best teams, Cardoza and the Owls feel confident moving forward.
“It was very frustrating, but at the same time, we can look back on this and see that we were right in this game and see the things we need to do to come out with the win,” Wallace said.
“Right now, we’re exactly where I think everyone in our locker room expects us to be,” Cardoza added. “I think for the most part, our guys feel like they’re underrated.”
Jeffrey Janiczek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.