The past two games, the Owls have been a completely different team.
Where once was a squad that coughed up the ball more than it found open shots is now a team that is making fewer mistakes and shooting at an impressive rate.
Much of that can be attributed to improved guard play. Heading into Temple’s game at Bowling Green on Nov. 28, coach Tonya Cardoza pulled the plug on her experiment with freshman guard May Dayan.
In five games as the starter at the two position, Dayan had more turnovers (17) than points (15), 10 rebounds and six assists.
All too often sophomore guard Rateska Brown would come off the bench to replace Dayan and make shot after shot. But instead of giving Brown the starting nod the past two games, Cardoza went with freshman guard Erica Covile and her 43.5 percent shooting and 3.6 rebounds per game.
“I just felt that [Covile] would give us another chance at getting some offensive rebounds,” Cardoza said. “She’s a great offensive rebounder.”
With Covile at shooting guard the Owls have racked up 70 and 74 points in their past two games, respectively. They got 70 in a convincing win against Bowling Green when Covile knocked down eight points to go along with six rebounds in 29 minutes of action.
On Sunday, Dec. 2, the Owls upset the undefeated and heavily-favored Syracuse, despite trailing 39–25 at the half. Covile’s stat line was a little less impressive, however, with five points and six boards.
“Right now it’s working out,” Cardoza said. “It’s still early, you never know what can happen, but I like what we look like out there to start. I think we’re bigger.”
“It helps a lot because the other team’s game plan is to trap me or double-team me or whatever,” senior center Victoria Macaulay said of the team’s recent balanced attack.
Yes, it’s still early in the season. There’s a very good chance Cardoza could juggle the guards again later in the season. It’s far from a settled group.
Sophomore guard Tyonna Williams has been the most consistent of the bunch. The starting point guard has averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 assists per game. But she’s given up the ball 32 times. The next closest player in that department is Brown, with 18.
“[Williams is] still young, so these are still games that she’s going to have turnovers,” Cardoza said. “But every single day I want to see improvement.”
Williams had her best performance of the season against the Orange, knocking down 33.3 percent of her shots for 14 points while tallying 11 assists for her first career double-double.
“Every situation is just going to help her, and this is definitely going to help her,” Cardoza said. “This, I think, is going to give her even more passion, and even more fire, that no matter what the situation is she’s going to have this to build on.”
The best of the bunch of late, however, has to be Brown, who was named co-Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Week for her performance against Syracuse. As the team’s sixth woman, she’s averaging 11.3 points while snagging four rebounds a game. The past three games she scored 12, 15 and 19 points. She’s easily the team’s best three-point shooter but Cardoza hasn’t given her the starting nod just yet.
“No I’m not content with sitting on the bench at all,” Brown said. “But I’m going to keep trying to get on the floor, but I mean, if that’s what coach wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Brown said that more as a competitor who wants to help her team every chance she gets.But she has a point. She wants to be out there as much as possible, even though Cardoza loves her in the role she has right now.
But that’s the way things are going to be for now. Cardoza will plug in people she thinks fit a certain role as long as they stay hot. Whoever has the hot hand and is making the fewest mistakes is going to get the most time.
“We had a lot of turnovers today but the difference in our turnovers today was we had a lot of assists,” Cardoza said. “So now we’re at least making plays for other people, and that’s really good.”
Right now that hot hand appears to belong to Williams and Brown. But with Covile starting the results speak for themselves. Two big wins in one week are hard to ignore.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.