By halftime, Temple already had 15 turnovers against Rutgers University on Monday.
The Scarlet Knights not only took the ball away from Temple. Rutgers scored 16 points off turnovers after two quarters. By the end of the game, an 84-67 loss for Temple, the Owls turned over the ball 23 times leading to 28 Scarlet Knights points.
The Scarlet Knights came away with 12 steals against the Owls (1-1). In their season opener against Delaware State, the Owls only committed 13 turnovers, a number coach Tonya Cardoza was fine with, she said. Cardoza said 23 turnovers against Rutgers was unexpected even against coach C. Vivian Stringer’s signature pressure defense.
“It’s really frustrating, especially when you see how easily we break the press,” Cardoza said. “When you see that you’ve had success doing it one way and now you decide to do it a different way, that’s frustrating.”
Throughout the game, Temple struggled to break coach Rutgers’ full-court pressure. On several occasions, the Owls couldn’t even inbound the ball before a Rutgers player intercepted the pass.
Even when Temple could inbound the ball, Rutgers swarm its backcourt, which usually led to a wide open frontcourt for the Owls. But passes were difficult to complete with Scarlet Knights in the passing lane.
When the Owls successfully broke the press, they would often hoist up quick shots from the perimeter. Temple shot 5-for-16 from 3-point range on Monday and attempted seven fewer free throws than it did in Friday’s 96-72 win against Delaware State University.
Temple started to find ways to break the press after halftime. The Owls trailed by as many as 24 points in the first half. They cut their deficit to seven points with two minutes, four seconds left in the third quarter.
Better spacing and more aggressiveness from Temple in the third quarter resulted in 16 points in the paint. In the other three quarters, the Owls totaled just 12 points in the paint.
Senior guard Tanaya Atkinson scored 16 of her 30 points in the third quarter.
“I just feel like we came out more aggressive,” said Atkinson, who tied her career-high in points. “We were more in tune and more focused in the second half. We played up, we started pressing and we started getting steals.”
The Owls had three steals in the third quarter, but a late 7-0 run from Rutgers to close the quarter bumped the lead back up to 15.
Freshman Breanna Perry played 28 minutes, the second most from a guard behind Atkinson’s 33 minutes. Perry had five points, three rebounds, a block and a turnover. She made her only 3-point attempt of the game to cut the Owls’ deficit to 15 in the third quarter.
“It was really intense,” Perry said of Rutgers’ defense. “I’ve never played on the wing and helped bring the ball up. I’m normally way in the back.”
Cardoza said playing against a team with a defense like Rutgers’ is a learning experience for Temple’s young players. It’s easy to tell the freshmen what to expect, but in the moment, it’s harder to figure out the situation, she added.
“The next time we face a team that presses, how are we going to respond?” Cardoza said. “If we didn’t learn anything from today, then that’s not a good thing. It’s just continuing to let them figure things out and making sure that we stay positive with everything that we do. We’re paying attention and learning as we go.”