While the rest of Temple’s 34,000-plus student body got a month off for winter break, the women’s basketball team was busy playing seven games.
And while the team went 5-2, including 4-2 on a six-game road trip, its lineup suffered some bad breaks along the way.
Junior guard Kristie Watkins-Day hasn’t seen game action since the Dec. 10 contest against Toledo, and backup point guard BJ Williams was on crutches before Wednesday’s game versus Rhode Island.
That brings the lineup rotation down to only nine players.
But luckily for the Owls, the team’s role players have picked up their games at the right time.
“A lot of teams are focusing in on Shenita [Landry] and Shanea [Cotton] now and looking to double team them because they know that’s a big part of our offense,” coach Tonya Cardoza said, “but I thought all those guys, Kristen [McCarthy], Lindsay [Kimmel] and Keisha [Eaddy] have been doing a really good job of making themselves available and knocking down open shots. Once you’re knocking down open shots, it’s going to be hard to guard us.”
Senior forwards Landry and Cotton continue to pace the offense, with Landry averaging 13 points per game to go along with Cotton’s 12.7. Earlier in the season, the two accounted for just about 40 percent of the offense. During the past seven games, however, it’s been sophomore guards Shaqwedia Wallace, Kimmel and freshman forward McCarthy who’ve picked up the slack.
In her first game back following a thumb injury, Wallace dropped 26 points in a 65-56 loss to Villanova Dec. 20. She’s also taken over the backup point guard duties while Williams is out.
Kimmel got out of her early season funk by hitting six 3-pointers versus Tulane in a 75-71 overtime win on Dec. 28. She followed up that performance with a career-high 22 points against Rhode Island on Wednesday.
“It’s about time [I did that],” Kimmel said. “I think it’s just being more consistent and following through into the game. Like Coach said, being more focused on the actual shot itself. The first few games my head wasn’t where it needed to be, but it’s A-10 now, and I’m getting focused.”
McCarthy has added 9.3 points per game and 5.5 rebounds since entering the starting lineup on Jan. 2 against Penn. She had her first career double-double on Wednesday.
“One of the biggest things we need to do, and we told Shenita and Shanea this, is that they need to try and get double-doubles,” Cardoza said. “And Kristen’s seen when Shanea isn’t able to get some rebounds or do something, and she’s gotten herself in there.”
All five starters scored in double figures in Wednesday’s Atlantic Ten home opener. Four players currently average double digits. The Owls will need that kind of scoring balance going forward in the A-10 with their lack of depth on the bench.
“We don’t want anybody to get that [title] over us,” Kimmel said. “We feel that it belongs to us, and we need to get it back. We’re still hungry because we’ve had so many close games.”
Those close games haven’t just come because of the role players’ abilities to step up on the offensive side of the ball. They’ve also picked up their defensive presence in their teammates’ absences, as opponents have averaged only 66.7 points per game during the seven-game stretch over break. That number is slightly skewed because of Temple’s 87-52 loss to No. 5 Duke on Jan. 5.
“A lot of teams have been scoring on us, and it’s more so that we’ve just allowed people to come right at us,” Cardoza said. “We needed to get back to what we were doing early on in the season, being aggressive and getting up in people’s faces and denying passes.”
If the role players can continue their progression, the women could be playing straight through another break: spring break.
“This time [of year] really sets you up for the [NCAA] Tournament,” Landry said. “And that’s our goal.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.