The women’s basketball team traveled to the Bahamas to play St. John’s and the NCAA defending champion Texas A&M.
ell this certainly wasn’t a part of the game plan.Looking at the first few games of the season and the roster that the women’s basketball team was bringing to the court, it would have been pretty tough to imagine the team being 2-4 with a four-game losing streak this early in the season.Coach Tonya Cardoza agreed it wasn’t the way she thought the Owls would start off the year.
“Looking at the schedule, I knew No. 5 Texas A&M was going to be one of those teams where we had to do everything right, and we didn’t,” Cardoza said. “But the other games [against No. 24 Ohio State, Northern Illinois and St. John’s] I definitely thought if we played a little smarter and we did things a little bit better, they’re definitely winnable games.”
Granted, the Owls faced defending national champion Texas A&M last Friday at the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas. If Temple would have come away with the upset it would have been one of the best wins in the history of the program.
St. John’s isn’t a pushover either, but it was hard to imagine the Owls losing four straight, much less losing four straight the way they did.
Temple has been hit hard by the turnover bug in their four losses, something that was rare last season. They’ve averaged 18.75 turnovers in the past four games including 27 against Texas A&M, whereas last year they averaged just 13.6. But turnovers haven’t been the only problem.
“It’s not one thing, I think it’s a few things,” Cardoza said. “We’ve been turning the ball over a lot and that’s something that we didn’t do at all last year.”
“And we’ve committed some really, really bad fouls,” she added. “I would say the thing we really have to improve on is being mentally tougher down the stretch.”
The Owls have not been mentally tough the past few games. Against the Buckeyes, Temple cut a 16-point deficit down to two in the final seconds, but lost. At Northern Illinois they held a 9-point lead midway through the first half, and a one-point lead at half, but lost. Against the Aggies they cut a 20-point deficit to just four points with less than three minutes remaining, but lost. And Saturday against St. John’s, the Owls held a five-point lead with just 11 minutes left, but lost.
I sense a trend.
“I think it’s concentration, taking care of the ball late in games, being smarter basketball players, not committing fouls that are unnecessary and just learning how to win,” Cardoza said about the team’s inability to close out games.
At the same time Cardoza did feel that they got slighted on at least one occasion, against Texas A&M in the final minutes.
“We didn’t get calls that we should have gotten,” she said. “I’m not one to ever complain about the officiating, but in that game there definitely were calls that should have gone our way that were overlooked and I just didn’t think it was fair.”
But this team can’t afford to make excuses too often. This is a senior-heavy team with loads of experience and talent. Senior guards Shey Peddy and Kristen McCarthy have started right where they left off last year, averaging 13.3 and 13.5 points per game, respectively. So there are few excuses to be had.
Yes, the schedule hasn’t been friendly in recent weeks, but the coaching staff and players knew this going in and still expected to win. Wednesday’s game against No. 13 Rutgers won’t be any easier.
“We have got to get back to winning and Wednesday will be a perfect game for us,” Cardoza said. “It’s going to be a good game and I’m hoping that we do all the right things and get back to our winning ways.”
It’s too early to panic just yet, but if there’s a time to right the ship, beating their across-the-border rival would have been a good start.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com.
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