It’s pretty hard to score when the ball isn’t in your hands. It’s a lot harder to score when you routinely give away your possessions.
The women’s basketball team, a team that in recent years has prided itself on controlling the ball, is now a turnover machine.
In four of their five games this season they’ve coughed up the ball at least 20 times. They only time they didn’t was in the season-opening win against Montana when they turned the ball over 19 times.
“I’m the starting point guard and it falls on me,” sophomore guard Tyonna Williams said after the loss to Rutgers on Nov. 21. “Until I get better it’s going to keep happening […] I’ve got to change the way I’m playing.”
In two of those contests turnovers cost Temple a chance at victory. Against Nebraska (26 turnovers) and Rutgers (24 turnovers) they were blown out thanks to costly first half turnovers that allowed their opponents to jump to big leads early.
“I’m hoping that it burns inside them that they start valuing the basketball because it’s not going to matter who we’re playing against,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We can play against a high school team and if we’re turning over the basketball we will lose the basketball game.”
It isn’t just the fact that the team has committed a lot of turnovers. It’s about how they’re making these mistakes.
They’re on a fast break and they overthrow a pass to an open teammate. They’re driving the lane and they kick out, but right to an opponent. They’re attempting long range passes that get tipped or go out-of-bounds. They’re forcing passes inside they have no right attempting.
In other words they’re playing like a team with only one senior.
“It wasn’t trouble,” sophomore guard Rateska Brown said of the Rutgers’ defensive pressure. “Like coach said it was a lot of unforced turnovers. We just threw it out-of-bounds when nobody was even pressing us.”
Granted, these short of hardships are expected on a very young team in the first few games of the season. But you’d expect the turnover rate to drop slightly after five games, not rise all the way to 29 when the team defeated Northeastern.
There’s two pretty simple solutions to this, though. The guards, especially, have to make smarter decisions and not try and force these miracle plays and win the game in one shot. Take what the defense gives you and keep it simple.
Also, when in their half-court offense they need to work the ball around more. Too many times Williams or freshman guard May Dayan may be sitting there dribbling around, making one or two passes. Where are the quick, around-the-arch, passes that spread out the defense?
While this problem limits the scoring capabilities of the offense, it also has an adverse affect on the defense. If there was a time-of-possession clock like in football Temple would be losing that battle by a wide margin.
Opponents have taken 304 shots compared to the Owls’ 253. In five games they have been out-shot by an average of 10.2 attempts.
Now the defense has been playing very well for its youth, allowing just 31.9 percent shooting. Temple has only been outscored by seven points this season, with much of the credit going to the defense being able to keep games closer than they deserve to be at times.
“The thing is, most of the time we’re playing pretty good defense and we’re getting really good stops, but you’re not going to shut a team out,” Cardoza said. “But if we’re getting stops and now we’re going down to the other end and turning the basketball over it defeats the purpose.”
So yes, the defense has held its own thus far. But they can’t make every stop and when the Owls have the seemingly inevitable turnover streak in the first half there’s not much the defense can do to slow down all those easy buckets.
They can overcome this for now against teams like Northeastern and Montana, but there’s no way non-conference foes like Syracuse and Villanova will grant them the same flexibility. And when the Atlantic 10 Conference season rolls around there’s no chance.
“I know the days off that I have I’m going to be in the gym,” Williams said about the week off until their next game. “I’m hoping my teammates will be in the gym. We got to find it inside of ourselves. We’ve got to want to get better, everybody.
They have to fix this now, or it’s going to be a long season.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520