The team that could find a million ways under the sun to lose a game and played like it was the second-youngest squad in the nation all season just will not go down.
And I don’t know why.
“One thing I noticed was when we went to the bench, I remember [sophomore guard Rateska Brown] saying, ‘We got this,'” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “And just that little bit of confidence, to know they’re not fold like they did last time [against Charlotte].”
Temple, in stunning fashion, played yesterday’s game against Xavier “times 10” as Cardoza said in their upset Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament quarterfinal win over No. 2 seed Charlotte, 48-47.
Under no circumstances should a team that shoots 25 percent from the field beat a heavy favorite the way the Owls did. At one point Macaulay had what felt like a dozen putback attempts in a five-second span because the rim looked like the size of a golf ball hole.
And when sophomore guard Tyonna Williams went down with three minutes, 35 seconds left in the game with what looked like a serious ankle injury all hope seemed lost. She couldn’t’ put any weight on it limping back to the bench. Temple was clinging to a 42-36 lead without a point guard.
“All I was thinking was like ‘what the heck are we going to do?’” Cardoza said. “My coaching staff, the first thing they said was put Rateska at the point and bring [freshman guard Meghan Roxas in as another scorer.”
Outside of Brown’s 23 points—a career high—on five treys, no Owl jumps off the stat sheet. Senior center Victoria Macaulay was relatively quiet, with eight points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. She shot a miserable 3-for-15.
“It was tough,” Macaulay said of her battle with Charlotte’s Jennifer Hailey. “But every day is a challenge and every day I have to guard somebody big and strong in the post, and we just did a good job of defending her.”
But something just short of a miracle seems to be happening with this team.
Despite the atrocious stat lines Temple kept it a game. They never trailed by more than four points, and they even had leads of as much as seven.
And they held the A-10 Most Valuable Player, Hailey, to just five points and seven boards while forcing her to commit five turnovers. Even junior guard Ny Hammonds, who torched the Owls on Feb. 6 with 16 points and five assists, only mustered five points and four assists while dodging foul trouble.
“They did a good job taking away [Hailey], which is not a surprise,” Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra said. “She’s been a complete dominant force in the 10 this year and this doesn’t take away from that fact that she, in our opinion, is the best player in this league.”
And then, as if someone had pressed the replay button on former guard Shey Peddy’s game-saving return from a broken nose that pushed the Owls to a appearance last season, Williams returned to the court taped right ankle and all.
“To be honest I didn’t even think about that,” Cardoza said about the eerily similar plot lines.
A minute later, nothing but net on a corner three from Williams to break a 43-43 tie.
Game. Set. Match.
“I’m be the same Tyonna tomorrow,” Williams said of her ankle. “No excuses.”
That’s good, because the Owls need these kinds of miracles. They’re defying all logic right now. A team that couldn’t buy a win all season is now one step away from a trip to the Barclay’s Center.
They’re the first No. 10 seed since Duquesne in 2006 to make the semi-finals.
AnIf the Owls want to avoid that fate they need all the luck they can find by tomorrow.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.