Maybe it’s a sign of the youth, or maybe it’s a result of all the turnovers, but something has to change for the Owls (5-4) in the first half of games.
By this point coach Tonya Cardoza and company know they have a problem coughing up the ball, especially early in games. It’s also quite obvious how young they are. Both topics have been well covered these first nine games.
But there’s been an interesting result to come of this tough combination. Slow starts.
Through nine games Temple has averaged 57.33 points per game. Of that, 24 come in the first half. In three contests—losses to Nebraska, Rutgers and Auburn on Sunday—the Owls scored 17, 14 and 17 points, respectively. Only twice have they scored at least 30 points in the opening half, against Northeastern and Kent State.
That’s not exactly a winning formula.
“It’s stuff that we’ve talked about, that we’ve noticed, that we have to get out to a better start,” Cardoza said after Sunday’s 71-49 loss to the Tigers (8-2). “A lot of times it’s the turnovers that cause it.”
Comparatively the Owls’ opponents average 28.88 points per first half, and 59.2 overall.
The tortoise-paced first halves means the team tends to play catch up. As the numbers show, Temple averages a first-half deficit of 4.88 points. Yet in just four of those games they’ve trailed. So when Cardoza’s squad falls behind at the break, it tends to be by a pretty decent margin.
Yet the Owls are quite good at coming back, averaging 33.33 points in the second half of games while opponents average 30.33. So when they finally turn things on, they do so better than their opponents do.
Temple has outscored Montana 28-14, Seton Hall 33-20, and Syracuse 49-28 in the second half. In only the Seton Hall game were they leading at intermission. And against Syracuse they needed every single point in that second half to overcome a 14-point deficit, ultimately winning 74-67.
“It’s something that, it has to change,” Cardoza said. “It can’t be that we’re down and now we start to fight […] That mentality has to change.”
“[Once] we realize that we can break the pressure, we can do something, then we get hungry or we get that pressure and sometimes it’s just too late,” Cardoza said.
It was the same thing on Sunday for the Owls, as they quickly fell behind thanks to some poor shooting and early mistakes. They went into the half trailing 17-30. At this point that score isn’t much of a surprise. This time they just couldn’t make up the ground, being outscored 41-32 in the second half.
“I think, to be honest, it’s just the heart and desire and the fight that you have every time that you step out on the court,” Cardoza said. “I know we’re young but that has nothing to do with being tough and being competitive.”
If the coach is calling out the toughness of her squad, a team that has leadership from senior center Victoria Macaulay and redshirt-junior forward Natasha Thames who are battle tested in some big games, that’s not a good sign.
The Owls next game is at Big 5 rival Villanova, who has always given this team trouble. Cardoza doesn’t expect the Wildcats to press nearly as much as Auburn did, but if the team can’t get off to a quicker start then they have much of the season that won’t make much of a difference.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.