Women’s basketball remains undefeated due to the play of three players.
It’s been a tale of two halves for the women’s basketball team this season.
On the one hand, there was the team that went 7-6 in non-conference games, including close losses to No. 7 Ohio State to open the season, No. 13 UCLA and No. 3 Duke.
On the other hand, there’s the team riding a 14-game winning streak while sitting on top of the Atlantic Ten Conference. With a 12-0 record, Temple is glancing sideways at No. 6 Xavier, which Temple is tied with for the conference lead.
It’s been a blessing and a curse for the Owls, who are currently 20-6.
“We took some bad losses, but I think we learned from those losses,” coach Tonya Cardoza said after the win against Dayton. “Maybe if we [didn’t] lose those games, who knows if [we’d be] in this position right now. If I had to do it all over again, I’m glad it worked out that way.”
There were certainly some bad losses, including winnable games against Seton Hall, Pepperdine and Eastern Michigan.
While the team is quick to point out no loss is a good loss, it was able to take the positives out of its three defeats against ranked teams.
“We don’t look at any losses as moral wins, but we know that even with our schedule – bad losses or good losses – we competed in every single game, especially against the teams that were in the Top 25,” Cardoza said.
Thankfully for the Owls, the switch flipped after their final loss to the Blue Devils over winter break.
“After that Duke loss, we all got together, and we talked about how good we could be,” Cardoza said. “If we’re playing teams like that, that are supposed to be in the Top 5, and we’re competing like that, why don’t we do that every single night? Why don’t we come out and play like that? And ever since then we pretty much have been.”
The fuel behind the fire since the Duke game has been redshirt-junior guard Shey Peddy. The first-year Owl has averaged 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.8 steals per game during the A-10 season, a dramatic jump from the first half of the season.
“I’m glad that my team has enough confidence in me to lead them, especially being a point guard. I know it starts with me,” Peddy said. “So if I don’t bring my ‘A-game’ then maybe they won’t bring their ‘A-game.’ Maybe we lose, maybe we don’t play as good.”
Temple’s “Big 3” – Peddy, junior forward Kristen McCarthy and senior guard Qwedia Wallace – are the engine of the Owls’ offense. All three members eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau this season as well. It’s rare for a team to have three players above that mark in one season, and the Owls have taken full advantage.
The Owls have dominated their A-10 opponents during their winning streak, outscoring them by an average of 25.4 points per game including a 53-point victory over George Washington, the second-largest margin of victory in the team’s history.
And now, even with one more game against Big 5 rival St. Joseph’s, Temple has its sights set on the clash with Xavier in the season finale.
“Coming into this season we all thought that it could be a special season for us,” Cardoza said. “We thought that we had all the pieces in place. But early on we weren’t doing the things it took to be a really good team. I think it took some bumps and bruises – some losses – to let us make sure we’re focused up to this point.”
“Of course we’re looking at the fact that it’s us and Xavier at the top of the conference right now,” Wallace said. “We know that we’re at the top, and they’re at the top, and it’s going to be a fight between us.”
For Wallace, and the rest of the seniors, this season means a lot.
“I’m really excited. I’m really happy right now,” Wallace said. “We’re playing well. It looks like the way we’re playing – if we keep playing this way – that it is going to end up being a very great senior year for me.”
And in what may be a good sign for the Owls, Wallace was able to poke fun at Peddy as the pressure and excitement continues to mount.
“I’m just very excited, and I hope that we can keep on this pace, and maybe I can go out with a ring, hopefully, if Shey plays defense and comes out ready to play,” Wallace said.
“If you make those shots and give me some assists, then we won’t have a problem,” Peddy said.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.