Through their first five games of the season, the Owls would sink or swim based on how senior center Victoria Macaulay performed. In its last two match-ups, however, Temple has been committed to a balanced scoring attack.
In losses to Nebraska and Rutgers, Macaulay averaged six points and 5.5 rebounds, resulting in Temple getting blown out by an average of 21 points. In the team’s first three wins, Macaulay averaged 21 points and 13 rebounds. The second highest individual point total in those three games was 13, which was done once by sophomore guard Rateska Brown and once by redshirt-junior power forward Natasha Thames.
On Nov. 28 against Bowling Green, however, things went vastly different. Macaulay recorded 12 points and seven rebounds, and Temple still went on to win 70–56. For the first time this season, Macaulay was not the team’s leading scorer in a game in which they won. Instead, freshman forward Sally Kabengano had a career high 17 points to go along with five rebounds and three blocked shots. Brown also outscored Macaulay, dropping 15 points on a 5-for-9 shooting night.
“It hurt us a lot in previous games to pass up on open shots in order to do something else,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We would end up turning the basketball over. So, we’re just preaching, ‘Shoot the ball.’”
Shoot the ball is precisely what Temple did on Dec. 2 against Syracuse. In the Owls’ 14-point comeback win against the Orange, Temple took a season high 21 three-point attempts. The result was just what Cardoza had hoped for: a well-balanced scoring attack resulting in more points.
Granted, Macaulay led all scorers with 20 points to go along with 11 rebounds, her fourth double-double on the year. However, Temple also had a season-high four players finish in double figures. Brown had 19 points off the bench, sophomore point guard Tyonna Williams had 14 and Thames contributed 10. Brown was named co–Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Week for her performance.
“So many guys had a great game [against Syracuse],” Cardoza said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen numbers like this, with four players in double figures and two players with double-doubles.”
Brown said the bitterness of getting ousted by Syracuse in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament last season is what sparked the offensive outburst, in which the Owls scored a season high 74 points.
“The mentality was to win,” Brown said. “We honestly talked about revenge, just getting back at them.”
Macaulay also didn’t forget the WNIT loss. Syracuse senior center Kayla Alexander dropped 29 points on the Owls last March with Macaulay covering her. This time around, Alexander went 5-for-14 from the field, totaling 12 points.
“I took it personal,” Macaulay said. “We should have never lost [in the WNIT]. I just had to try and stop [Alexander], because last year she was their main key. This year, I couldn’t let that go down.”
In the middle of Temple’s recent balanced attack is Williams, who struggled badly in the early going of the season but has since showed significant progress. Through the first four games of the season, Williams shot 5-for-27 from the field for a .185 shooting percentage. In the last three games, she’s gone 11-for-27 for a .407 percentage. In that three-game span, Williams is also shooting .438 from three-point range. She recorded her first-career double-double in the win against Syracuse after dishing out 11 assists to go along with her 14 points.
“[Williams] is still young,” Cardoza said. “She’s going to have some turnovers but every single day I want to see some improvement. Early on, she wasn’t getting any assists really. But the last few games she’s been distributing the ball. Now she’s looking for her teammates, and that’s helping her offense because she’s not just focused on scoring.”
As for Macaulay, with her teammates putting the ball in the basket more often, she said a lot of the pressure she felt earlier in the season has since faded.
“[The opponent’s] game plan is to attack me or double-team me,” Macaulay said. “To find an open player that I have confidence in to knock down the shot, that helps a lot.”
Tyler Sablich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TySablich.