With senior center Victoria Macaulay firmly set as the women’s basketball team’s centerpiece, the Owls 2012-13 season started out just as you would expect.
Macaulay scored a career-high tying 21 points and grabbed a career high 16 rebounds, leading Temple to a 55-41 win against Montana at McGonigle Hall Friday night.
Macaulay was demanding the ball early and often in the season opener. She ripped off Temple’s first six points of the game, commanding the paint over the Lady Griz.
The rest of the team, however, was not nearly as sharp in the early going. The Owls, the second youngest team in Division I women’s basketball, showed exactly why youth and inexperience can sometimes factor into a basketball game. The nerves were evident, as Temple was sloppy in the initial minutes of the game, and struggling with their jump shot. Coach Tonya Cardoza was forced into calling a timeout with the Owls down 16-6 early.
“The way we started the game, we dug ourselves a hole,” Cardoza said. “But we didn’t give up. We really fought our way back into the basketball game.”
Following the timeout, the Owls seemed to find their groove both offensively and defensively. Starting point guard, sophomore Tyonna Williams, stole the ball and stormed down the court, drawing a foul on a hard take to the basket. Sophomore guard Rateska Brown, hit a three ball fresh off the bench. Starting small forward, freshman Sally Kabengano, looked like a different player out of the timeout, playing with a greater sense of energy and confidence.
With two and half minutes left in the first half, freshman shooting guard May Dayan hit a three ball with the shot clock winding down that put the Owls ahead 24-23. On Temple’s next possession, Brown hit another three. The game was deadlocked 27 -27 at halftime.
The Owls carried the momentum over into the second half. The Owls started on a 12-2 run, leading Montana by eight with roughly 10 minutes left in the game. Macaulay continued her dominance inside, with Brown continuing to knock down open looks. With nine minutes remaining, Dayan hit her second three of the game, and Temple was well on their way to their first win of the new campaign. The Owls outscored the Lady Griz 28-14 in the second half.
“I thought for our first game we came out and did a lot of really positive things,” Cardoza said. “Defensively, to hold them to five field goals in the second half was remarkable.”
Macaulay had a monster game, finishing with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
“This game gave me more confidence in myself and in my team,” Macaulay said. “Just out-rebounding [Montana] and making hustle plays, and talking a lot on defense gave me the confidence.”
“[Macaulay] is our go-to player, she’s our leader,” Cardoza said. “I thought she played an outstanding game, dominated the backboards.”
Brown finished with 13 points, providing a huge lift off of Cardoza’s bench.
“[Brown] was a spark for us both on the offensive and defensive ends,” Cardoza said. “We were scrappy, and [Montana] is a very experienced team.”
Temple, which was ranked fifth in the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason rankings, may have come in with a chip on their shoulder in the home opener. Their youth and inexperience has been highly publicized, but the Owls were able to overcome their rocky start and dominate the second half.
Their next match-up will come on the road against Nebraska on Sunday, slated to get underway at 2 p.m.
Tyler Sablich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TySablich.