Fans should look at the entire season, not just last loss to Connecticut.
Despite the crushing loss to Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Temple coach Tonya Cardoza and the women’s basketball team have to be happy with the team’s performance this season.
After the Owls defeated James Madison, 65-53, in the first round of the tournament, they faced the No. 1 Huskies, who had won 73 straight games and were looking to advance to the next round on their way toward their second straight National Championship. The result wasn’t pretty, as the Owls fell, 90-36, in the most lopsided second-round NCAA Tournament game of all time. As it became clearer that the Owls were going to lose that game, I started thinking about how the loss would not reflect the success the Owls had this year.
After all, the Owls (25-9 overall, 11-3 Atlantic Ten Conference) won more than 20 games for the seventh straight season and reached their seventh straight NCAA Tournament. Once they were there, the Owls advanced to the second round of the tournament for the first time with Cardoza. Cardoza’s predecessor, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, did not win her first NCAA Tournament game until her fifth season. After her first two seasons at Temple, Cardoza has a career record of 46-20, the best two-year start of any Temple coach ever. Her performance garnered her Philly College Sports.Com Coach of the Year honors.
On the court, the 2009-2010 season brought about the emergence of sophomore forward Kristen McCarthy as a genuine star. McCarthy, the Big 5 Rookie of the Year during her first season in Philadelphia, averaged 14.8 points and six rebounds per game for the Owls en route to being named to the first-team All-A-10 squad as well as the A-10’s All-Tournament team. McCarthy scored 42 points on Feb. 13 against Charlotte, which set the program record for points scored in a single game.
Senior guard LaKeisha Eaddy became the program’s all-time steals leader while providing the consistent leadership that led to her 124 career starts. Senior forward Jasmine Stone provided a consistent threat in the frontcourt, averaging 7.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Cardoza acknowledged how pleased she was with her team’s performance during the season, something her players also agreed with.
“We’re disappointed in the loss, but I’m so very proud of us for getting to this point and how hard we worked all year,” Cardoza said. “This loss is no indication of our entire season. The most important thing is making sure our players know that.”
“We worked hard all season, and nobody expected us to be in this position,” junior forward Marli Bennett added. “Nobody expected us to be contending for the A-10 Championship. I’m so proud of my teammates for what we accomplished. We might have the smallest team in the NCAA, but we fight hard.”
Bennett is right. Temple did exceed everybody’s expectations. The Owls’ 25 wins were the most wins since 2006-2007, when the team also had 25 wins. Temple defeated Auburn, the defending Southeastern Conference Champion, 66-52, on Nov. 17. The Owls defeated Dartmouth, the defending Ivy League Champion, 64-38, on Nov. 19. They beat Rutgers, their perennial foe, for the first time since the 2005-2006 season.
UConn was, and still is, on a completely different level than the Owls and, for that matter, the rest of college basketball. For somebody to think that a loss to that powerhouse negates the accomplishments that the Cherry and White had this year would be foolish. The Owls worked incredibly hard and played their hearts out, something that should be admired, not ignored because of the season finale’s lopsided result. If the team can repeat their efforts next season, Cardoza should have them back in the tournament yet again.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.