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Temple falls to No. 7 Louisville 77-68

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)

Tonya Cardoza knows her young Temple team will need to put together a full 40 minutes to finally knock off a Top 25 team.

Her Owls put together good stretches against Louisville, but one lull spanning the half was too much to overcome against the seventh-ranked team in the country.

Natasha Thames matched her career high with 24 points in the Owls' 77-68 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday.

''I felt like we played 15 good minutes but towards the end of the first half let them get a couple easy buckets,'' Cardoza said. ''We came out in the second half and they went on 9-0 run and we committed some not so smart fouls. They were shooting 1 and 1 with 15 minutes to go. It's hard to beat a team like Louisville like that.''

The Owls are winless in three games against ranked teams this season. The school hasn't defeated a Top 25 opponent since 2009.

''We played other ranked teams and we know we can play with these teams,'' said Monaye Merritt, who matched her career best with 14 points. ''We know we can get over the hump.''

Besides the fouls, Temple was also done in by 25 turnovers that led to easy Louisville points.

''They were the better team,'' Cardoza said. ''We turned the basketball over and let them get offensive rebounds. When you're playing against the seventh-ranked team you can't have mistakes like that. You can't make careless mistakes.''

Each team got off to a rough start. The Owls and Cardinals struggled to get into a flow offensively because of turnovers.

Fortunately for Louisville, Temple couldn't really convert those miscues into points. Louisville led 19-17 with just under 5 minutes left in the half before Shoni Schimmel took over. She had six straight points as the Cardinals closed the first 20 minutes with a 12-4 run to take a 31-21 lead at the break.

It only got worse from there for the Owls.

The Cardinals (14-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) scored the first nine points of the second half. Schimmel had 10 points and Asia Taylor six during Louisville's 21-4 run that spanned halftime and made it 40-21 with 18:02 left.

Temple (7-5, 1-1) got within 77-68 with 16 seconds left, but that's as close as the Owls could get.

Taylor finished with 18 points and Schimmel had 15 for the Cardinals.

This was the first meeting between the schools. They'll play again in the middle of February down in Louisville. That might be Temple's only chance to knock off last season's national runner-up; Louisville heads to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season after one year in the American.

''Getting to play new people is exciting,'' Schimmel said. ''It's different than playing in the Big East. You look at the floor and it's like we're playing Temple. It's our league for this year.''

Taylor took it a step further, saying how she misses her old conference.

''I loved being in the Big East,'' she said. ''You knew every night that it was going to be a close game. You didn't need a scouting report as you know who the stars are.''

Both players won't have to worry about the move to the ACC next year, since they will have exhausted their eligibility.

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Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

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