The Owls have six games remaining in the Atlantic 10 Conference season and it’s nothing short of a gauntlet to the finish.
Temple (11-12, 4-4 A-10) will face four teams with a record of 5-3 or better in conference play to close the season.
“It’s always important to play well down the stretch,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We’re obviously not worried about what we’ve done in the past but what we’re doing now.”
“I feel like the last couple of weeks we’ve had some really, really good moments and sometimes been obviously that rock in the road where it’s a little bumpy,” Cardoza added. “But I feel like we find a way to get back on track.”
Temple took down Saint Louis (10-13) at home Sunday, 54-50. The Billikens came into the game 4-3 in the conference, so the win helped push Temple a few spots higher in the standings. Solid win, but nothing flashy.
Temple has a tendency this season to play its best against similarly skilled teams. They’re 8-3 (3-1 in the A-10) against teams with a winning percentage between .333 and .666. So the win against the Billikens was to be expected.
“I felt like our effort today was really good, and if we continue with that type of effort I’m sure good things will follow,” Cardoza said after the game.
Despite playing well against those opponents, the Owls are just 3-2 (1-1 in the A-10) this season against teams with a .333 or worse winning percentage. One of those losses came against a previously winless Kent State squad. La Salle was the other.
They simply haven’t shown up against easy competition. Senior center Victoria Macaulay said there’s an easy solution for it.
“Just trying to make sure we don’t play on their level,” Macaulay said. “Every game is a game, so every game we got to go out there, we got to play our best, bring everything to the floor.”
A-10 cellar dwellers Xavier and Rhode Island, a combined 2-14 in-conference, are easy trap games for a team that falls for the bait quite a bit. This team’s inexperience is likely to blame compared to previous seasons – when the Owls earned first-round byes in the A-10 tournament in 2011 and 2012.
“Sometimes it’s not always going to be the same as the last couple of years, but you still got to work hard and you’ve still got to fight for that position even thought things aren’t going well,” Macaulay said.
“We obviously don’t have past experiences,” freshman guard Meghan Roxas said of the young blood on the team. “We’re learning every game. I feel like every game we come in we know a little bit more about how the other team is doing.”
Then there are the big dogs to worry about.
Butler, Fordham, St. Joseph’s University and Dayton remain on the schedule and all are jostling for one of the four first-round byes in the A-10 tournament. They’re a combined 27-6. They won’t go down easy.
“We just go one game at a time, and right now we’re really happy with how we performed [against Saint Louis],” Cardoza said.
As would be expected from a young team, the Owls have had trouble this season against top competition. They’re just 2-7 against teams with better than a .666 winning percentage. One win came against a ranked Syracuse squad. Another came against then-2-0 Seton Hall.
The Owls already faced Duquesne and Charlotte, the other two teams fighting for a bye in the conference tournament with a combined A-10 record of 15-2, and lost by a combined score of 88-131.
The team is saying all the right things, right down to the “one game at a time” mantra, but their track record this season says this is going to be tough sledding. They could go 0-6. They could go 6-0. They could finish somewhere in between.
Depends which team shows up.
“You never know what happens,” Cardoza said. “For all we know we could go on a [six-game] win streak. You never know what can happen and I’m not going to count my team out.”
Don’t count them out, but you can’t dismiss reality.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jakeadams520.