After freshman forward Mia Davis committed a foul with eight minutes, 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter, senior guard Tanaya Atkinson called her teammates over to huddle on the court.
Each of the other four players listened intently to what Atkinson said as Temple trailed by 18 points against Rutgers University at McGonigle Hall on Monday. Temple (1-1) hopes to use its 84-67 loss to the Scarlet Knights as a learning experience for a team with six freshmen.
“We have a lot of young guys, so when the score is like that and we’re down, I just try to keep everybody focused,” Atkinson said. “I’m saying just to keep fighting and don’t give up and come back out on the next play and do what we didn’t do right on the last play.”
“I definitely think we’re getting better and will continue to get better,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “Every single time we step on the court is a learning experience for a lot of these guys.”
Rutgers won its 40th game against Temple in 52 all-time matchups. The Scarlet Knights have won six of their last eight games against the Owls. Freshman guard Breanna Perry didn’t have trouble finding a takeaway from the loss.
Perry and freshman guards Desiree Oliver and Emani Mayo faced the Scarlet Knights’ full-court press for the first time. Perry called it an “intense” experience.
Oliver had four turnovers in 13 minutes, and senior guard Khadijah Berger had six turnovers in 24 minutes. Perry finished with five points, three rebounds, a block and a turnover.
The Owls struggled with Rutgers’ full-court press. They committed 15 turnovers in the first half and ended the night with 23. The Owls allowed 28 points off their turnovers.
“I knew we would turn the ball over, but I didn’t think we would turn the ball over this much,” Cardoza said. “We get tired, we stop concentrating, we stop focusing, we get a little lazy and one turnover leads to another turnover leads to another turnover.”
At the end of the first half, the Owls trailed by 21 points. Before Berger hit a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left in the second quarter, Temple’s points came solely from Atkinson and Davis.
Temple showed a burst of energy, however, when it came back onto the court for the third quarter. Atkinson stole the ball and made an uncontested layup within the first 10 seconds.
Atkinson scored eight points to Rutgers’ two in the first two minutes of the third quarter. These buckets contributed to Atkinson’s 30 points, which tied her career-high. She also grabbed 13 rebounds to record her second double-double of the season.
“I just felt like we came out more aggressive and we were more in tune and we were more focused in the second half than in the first half,” Atkinson said. “We came up and we started pressing and we started getting steals and the momentum was through the roof. So I felt like we just fed off of each other and tried to get back in the game.”
Despite outscoring the Scarlet Knights in the third quarter, 26-21, the Owls couldn’t catch up. They pulled within seven points when Perry made a jumper with 2:04 left.
Rutgers closed the third quarter on a 7-0 run and scored two more baskets in the fourth quarter before Atkinson’s jumper with 9:01 left stopped its streak.
Temple beat Rutgers 22-15 on the boards in the second half after being outrebounded in the first. The Scarlet Knights finished with 42 rebounds to Temple’s 40.
Temple’s next game is on Thursday at McGonigle Hall against Wagner College. Both the Owls and Seahawks will be coming off double-digit losses.
“It came down to turnovers and offensive rebounds,” Cardoza said. “If you turn the basketball over 20-something times and you give up 20 offensive rebounds, there’s not going to be a lot of games that you win.”