Jan. 21, 2016, was the last time the Owls lost a Big 5 game before Sunday against Villanova.
The Owls lost to Villanova, 69-65, to fall to 7-3 on the season and 2-1 in Big 5 play. The Wildcats, who earned their first national ranking since 2004 on Nov. 27 and are currently 22nd in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, improved to 9-0 and 2-0 in Big 5 games.
Villanova entered the game holding teams to a 20.3 percent clip from beyond the 3-point arc. Temple shot 0-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half and 4-for-20 overall. The Wildcats improved to 23-4 in their past 27 Big 5 games.
Temple had a chance to claim the Big 5 title outright with a win. Temple can still win a share of the Big 5 title if Villanova loses to La Salle on Dec. 20 or Penn on Jan. 17, 2018. The Owls could win the title outright if Villanova drops both of those games.
“We had the Big 5 championship right in front of us, and we didn’t take it,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We played against a team that’s in the top 25 and undefeated, and we had them. Every time we made a mistake on both ends, but especially on defense, they capitalized on it, and we just needed to be more disciplined in that second half.”
Temple outrebounded Villanova by eight in the second half and received a 20-point effort from senior guard Tanaya Atkinson in the final 20 minutes. The Owls only had one turnover in the second half compared to five in the first 20 minutes.
Senior guard Khadijah Berger’s 3-pointer with eight minutes, 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter cut the Owls’ deficit to two points. Villanova then went on a 10-2 run. Wildcats senior guard Alex Louin had five of her 15 points during the run.
Temple came back with a 10-3 run. Junior guard Deja Reynolds had three points and an assist during the run. Atkinson’s layup with 1:13 left cut Temple’s deficit to three, but Louin made a layup 30 seconds later to give Villanova separation.
Atkinson made one more basket to finish with a game-high 24 points. She also had 18 rebounds, a season-high and two short of her career-high, to record her fifth consecutive double-double.
Temple finished the first quarter with a 17-13 lead despite going down 8-0 to start the game and not getting a single point from Atkinson. With Atkinson struggling early on, freshman forward Mia Davis shouldered the load, scoring seven of the Owls’ 17 points in the first quarter.
Davis finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
“In that first quarter, I attacked the basket well,” Davis said. “Getting to the basket early in the game was important for me because my shot was a little off.”
Atkinson became involved immediately in the second quarter, scoring the first basket 30 seconds into the period. Her 24 points came on 24 field goal attempts, but she shot 8-for-16 after halftime.
“They were playing off me in the first half, trying to force me to shoot the ball,” Atkinson said. “We [went] into the half and coach talked to me to just come out and be confident. And then I came out and hit my first two shots and my confidence just went up from there and just became muscle memory. If I had a shot I took it. If I could drive I drove.”
Villanova’s 3-point defense entered Sunday ranked second in Division I. To try to help Temple spread the floor, Cardoza used more of her bench.
Junior forward Lena Niang, who didn’t play on Thursday against Hampton University and hadn’t played more than 10 minutes in a game since the second game of the season, played 22 minutes against Villanova. Niang finished the game 0-for-6 from 3-point range and 1-for-8 from the field.
The Owls will play their sixth straight game at McGonigle Hall when they host Marist College on Saturday at 2 p.m.