Ten minutes into its game with Villanova last Saturday, it looked like the Temple women’s basketball team was going to be blown out by the Wildcats for its first loss of the season.
Villanova was up 20-10 and things were still going downhill. The Wildcats’ Nicole Druckenmiller and Brandi Barnes were owning the paint, and Nova was scoring at will.
Then Temple somehow found a way to put up a fight. But the fight, although valiant, ended in a 60-55 loss to the Wildcats. Villanova has now won 12 straight meetings with Temple. The Owls haven’t notched a win in the series since 1988.
Even in the loss Temple kept things exciting, however.
After a timeout in the first half, Temple got into the game. The Owls ripped off an 11-3 run going into the break. At halftime Temple only trailed by six, 29-23.
“It looked like a typical men’s Big 5 game from 35 years ago,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “I thought I was at the Palestra 30 years ago.”
Perretta, who earned his 400th career win in the game, had to coach down to the wire.
“Anything conceivable could happen at any given time,” he said. “We’re up 15, 16, then the roof caves in. Next thing you know it’s like 5, tie. At the end they’re making good shots, the only advantage we had was that we had the lead.”
Villanova scored first in the second half, with a three-pointer, but Temple struck harder. Lisa Jakubowicz, with the score 32-23, made two lay ups and a free throw. Along with a shot by Ieesha Turnage and two free throws from Stacey Smalls, the score was tied at 32.
“We did everything in our power,” Temple coach Dawn Staley said. “We didn’t turn the ball over much, we didn’t foul much. We put ourselves in a position to win it but we ran out of time. Villanova executed down the stretch and made some shots that broke our back.”
With less than ten minutes to go in the game, Nova’s Trish Juhline made the shots that broke Temple’s back.
She put the lead up to seven with a three-pointer from the left corner. Then, with Jakubowicz and Athena Christoforakis narrowing the lead back down to six, Juhline hit another three from the left corner.
At 50-41, Christoforakis made a lay up followed by a Melissa Eagles lay up and the score was 50-45.
With a six-point lead, 55-49, Nova’s Barnes lost the ball and Temple’s Christina Cruz drove the length of the court to make the score 55-51. With time expiring and only a minute left in the game, Cruz fouled Mimi Riley. Riley made one free throw before Juhline was sent to the line.
Juhline made both of her free throws and gave the Wildcats a 58-51 lead. Temple could only counter with lay ups from Jakubowicz and Smalls. With only seven seconds left, Druckenmiller made a free throw and Nova’ won the game, 60-55.
“Of course as a player you want to be in those situations,” Staley said. “But as a coach you’re kind of seeing everything. I think our assistant coaches did a great job and we came together. We just came up a little short.”
“I told our kids that they (Temple) are much-improved defensively,” Perretta said. “Their intensity level is much higher than last year. Offensively, they’re older so they’re better. They’re going to win some games.”
The Owls take on Pennsylvania on Saturday at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on St. Joseph’s campus. They meet Farleigh Dickinson on Tuesday before getting a few weeks to prepare for the Lady Lobo Classic in New Mexico. Temple returns home to the Liacouras Center on Dec. 27 in a game against Iona.