After winning back-to-back games last week for the first time this season, the women’s basketball team is back to its struggling ways.
Coming off a heartbreaking two-point loss in the Atlantic 10 Conference home opener against Virginia Commonwealth University, the Owls suffered an ugly 65-45 defeat at the hands of Duquesne Sunday and saw two of their most reliable performers play a combined 25 minutes.
“I thought the way we started the game, it just wasn’t good,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We missed wide open layups, easy opportunities. [Duquesne] was just too much for us today. I just felt like we didn’t get production from people.”
The Dukes (14-3, 3-0) shot 45 percent from the field compared to the Owls’ 31 percent. Temple also shot 2-of-15 from three-point range. Sophomore guard Rateska Brown was the only Owl to shoot particularly well, going 5-of-8 from the field for a team-high 15 points. However, she also committed seven of the team’s 25 turnovers, an aspect that Temple seemed to be improving on until today. The Dukes scored 25 points off of Temple giveaways.
Duquesne junior center Wumi Agunbiade dominated Temple in the paint, scoring 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting while also grabbing eight rebounds.
Agunbiade’s performance was perhaps accentuated by a meager six minutes of playing time for Temple senior center Victoria Macaulay, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. She recorded two points and three minutes in her abbreviated appearance.
To put things into an even uglier perspective, redshirt-junior power forward Natasha Thames, who typically logs big minutes as Macaulay’s frontcourt mate, played 19 minutes.
Cardoza said Macaulay and Thames were not injured in any way. Benching two of her top performers was a statement.
“[Macaulay and Thames] are two of our older guys, they’re our leaders,” Cardoza said. “If we’re yelling at our younger guys to do things and [Macaulay and Thames] aren’t doing them, it’s not fair. I think it starts with them. If they’re not boxing out, if they’re not doing the things we’re asking, then if we’re gonna lose we’re gonna lose with the younger guys.”
With both Macaulay and Thames exiting early, Cardoza sent a very small lineup out to compete with Duquesne’s bruisers in the post. Freshman forward Jacquilyn Jackson played a career high 30 minutes, notching three points and seven rebounds, while freshman forward Sally Kabengano logged eight points in 34 minutes. Freshman guard/forward Erica Covile did not make the trip to Pittsburgh after suffering an injury in practice.
In a game that featured very few bright spots, Cardoza took notice to Jackson.
“[Jackson] is another player that we sat down and is trying to do more and bring more,” Cardoza said. “She’s a physical presence, she’ll go and rebound. So I think she’s another one that has definitely earned herself more playing time.”
A frustrating season may have hit rock bottom with the benching of Macaulay and Thames, two veterans that are supposed to be relied upon for mentoring the plethora of young talent on the team. Cardoza’s squad has now dropped eight of its last 10 games and have fallen to 7-10 overall, 1-2 in A-10 play, and a bleak 2-8 on the road.
In the midst of Temple’s worst season under Cardoza, the Owls will take a break from in-conference play to take on the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday Jan. 23 in their second Big 5 game of the 2012-2013 campaign.
Tyler Sablich can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TySablich.