Non-conference schedule provides early struggles

From the moment the schedule was released, the women’s basketball team knew it would be toiling with one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country.

With that in mind, players and coaches realized they would likely receive their share of bumps and bruises along the way.

They have.

But only looking at Temple’s 3-5 record gives most outsiders a common misconception. The Owls have rallied to keep haughty team such as No. 6 Stanford (6-1) and No. 11 Duke (5-2) on their heels. Not to mention taking No. 7 Georgia (7-0) to the wire and upending formerly-ranked Purdue (2-4) by 14 points.

The challenging schedule doesn’t get any easier, either, as the Owls venture south to face No. 3 Maryland (10-0) Sunday. Further down the road lies currently ranked teams in Rutgers (4-1) and George Washington (6-3). The Owls will take on eight teams that participated in the NCAA Tournament last season.

“It’s just good for us to get out there and we’re a young group, so to battle against All-Americans and [Atlantic Coast Conference] teams, and [Southeastern Conference] teams is just a good test for us,” senior guard Ashley Morris said. “We got good teams in the [Atlantic Ten Conference] that we’re going to face and these tests are only going to help us in the long run.”

Coach Dawn Staley has scheduled difficult opponents in the past, though no non-conference schedule has probably been as daunting. The Owls have faced the top-ranked team in two of the last three seasons. This experience has carried over into the mentality of the players.

Though there’s an abundance of Top 25 teams that line the Owls’ schedule, a group of opponents are on the brink of joining the elite ranks.

Georgia Tech (5-0) is undefeated and quickly gaining recognition and votes in the Associated Press poll. The Owls lost to the Yellow Jackets, 59-49, at the Paradise Jam Tournament.

North Carolina State (8-1), who has also gained AP poll votes, might also be adding a number to its title after the Wolfpack’s narrow 57-52 victory at the Liacouras Center Saturday.

These formidable contests have turned into exciting finishes. More importantly, the Owls hope it will lay a foundation to construct an A-10 championship run.

“We’re not going to face this type of schedule later on, so it’s going to help us in January and February when we get into our conference,” Staley said.

Anthony Stipa can be reached at anthony.stipa@temple.edu.

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