Tonya Cardoza has seen both sides of her squad.
After starting the season 3-7, the women’s basketball team won four of its next five games and followed the winning streak with a three-game losing streak, which was broken following a 72-57 win against Central Florida.
Through the ups and downs, the seventh-year coach is starting to see where her team stands halfway through the season.
“What I see is when we are really good and focused and paying attention, we could be [in] the Top 3 in the conference,” Cardoza said. “But when we are bad, we can seriously lose to anyone.”
Freshman Tanaya Atkinson agrees.
“As of right now with the teams we beat and we did lose to. … I think we should be Top 3,” Atkinson said.
The Owls, who sit in fourth place in the American Athletic Conference standings, got a taste of upper-tier competition in the conference when they faced South Florida and No. 2 Connecticut in a four-day span.
UConn and USF, teams that still have unbeaten conference records, topped the Owls with strong inside play and precise offense. The two teams combined to score 94 points in the paint and benefited from the Owls’ lack of size.
“Sometimes we are at a disadvantage,” Cardoza said. “We are not that big and they just bury us … but people know we are small, so that is what they are going to look to do – try and take advantage of us inside.”
As the Owls’ active roster averages a height of 5-foot-10, the Owls know they have to win the intangibles battle each time out in order to make up for their lack of size.
“Since we are smaller, we have to scramble around and do the extra [work],” Cardoza said. “Sometimes we fall asleep and we don’t really want to make that extra play, but that’s how we have to play.”
Offensively, the lack of size affects the way the Owls play. In the two losses to UConn and USF, the Owls attempted a combined 52 3-pointers. With no consistent inside presence, teams force Temple to stay on the perimeter and make it hard for the Owls to get in the lane.
“When you don’t have a post presence, teams scout us and they know who our players are and what we like to do,” Cardoza said. “They are hanging out in the lane. It’s going to be difficult to shoot high percentages because you are always going to be shooting over two or three guys.”
Heading into Saturday’s game against UCF, the Owls knew the Knights would look to attack with a similar approach. With the pressure of a three-game losing streak hanging over their heads, the Owls tightened up their defense and held UCF to 39 percent shooting and 26 points in the paint.
But for senior Tyonna Williams, the previous losses were not a factor.
“I never think about that stuff,” Williams said. “I always take each game one game at a time … I don’t think about losing streaks.”
In the wins and losses, one thing is key to Cardoza – mindset. In the team’s two previous losses, the team’s mindset was different from Saturday’s 15-point victory.
“To start the game, the mindset was good because good things happened,” Cardoza said. “Everybody is feeling good about themselves.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @Michael_Guise