At the 14:27 mark in the first half, that’s when it happened.
Senior center Victoria Macaulay’s first career three-pointer proved to be a strong indication that everything would turn out all right in the end, despite a hard-fought battle by lowly Atlantic 10 Conference rival Rhode Island. The Owls (12-12, 5-4) ultimately pulled out a 56-45 win against the last place Rams (5-18, 0-8).
“Me and coach [Tonya Cardoza] talked about [attempting a three] in shoot-around earlier today,” Macaulay said. “[Opponents] were sagging off of me way too much. She was like, ‘go for it.’”
Macaulay’s three-ball was part of a 12-0 Temple run in the first half, after which Rhode Island found themselves down 19-6 with 12 minutes remaining until halftime. However, the Rams finished the half strong, going on a 7-0 run beginning at the nine minute mark. Rhode Island cut the Temple lead down to three in the waning minutes of the first half, as Temple clung to a 31-26 lead at the break.
Cardoza admitted the Owls were sloppy at times in the first half, allowing the Rams to stay in the game. However, after turning the ball over seven times before halftime, Temple finished the game with just nine total, their lowest amount of the season.
“At the half, I saw seven [turnovers] and I was a little nervous,” Cardoza said. “Walking down the hall, they had already started talking about taking better care of the basketball. That’s the first thing that I heard. So they definitely listened to each other and definitely did a better job.”
Rhode Island raced out to a 6-0 run following the intermission, and Temple suddenly found itself trailing by a point to a team that has not won a road game all season. Following a Cardoza timeout, the Owls began to buckle down. They sprung to a 12-1 down the stretch and escaped a pesky performance by the Rams.
Although this was certainly a game that Temple rightfully won, Cardoza said that Rhode Island perhaps wasn’t getting enough credit prior to the match-up.
“We started celebrating too easily I thought. We though that [Rhode Island] was just gonna roll over and die,” Cardoza said. “Rhode Island’s a tough team. They work extremely hard. Their record doesn’t indicate how much fire and passion that they play with.”
Macaulay notched her tenth double-double of the season, recording 13 points and ten rebounds. She also blocked six shots and has now amassed 24 blocks over her last four games. Freshman forward Sally Kabengano led all scorers with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and sophomore point guard Tyonna Williams backed her teammates with 12 points and five assists.
Kabengano, more known for her defensive game than her scoring ability, said she felt comfortable in all facets of the game.
“I gained confidence when my defense went well,” Kabengano said. “We got stops and steals, and that made me kind of hyped on the offensive end.”
The 11th annual “School Day” drew students from 25 different elementary schools and high schools from the surrounding area, all of which took part in cheering on the Owls.
“That was great,” Cardoza said. “They were so loud that sometimes we had to come up with signs because we couldn’t hear each other. But that’s always great to play in front of that kind of crowd. They were so enthusiastic throughout.”
Macaulay echoed her coach’s thoughts, adding that “School Day” is always the loudest home game of the season.
“Every single year I’ve been here, it’s always a good experience for them to be in the crowd,” Macaulay said. “It’s always an awesome time with them.”
Following the win over Rhode Island, Temple has five regular season games remaining. The Owls are currently ranked eighth in the conference. After adding the likes of Butler and VCU to the A-10, the tournament will feature the top 12 teams rather than the top eight like it had before the expansion.
Temple will next take on A-10 and Big 5 rival St. Joe’s this Sunday at Hagan Arena.
“It’s a good match-up,” Cardoza said. “Obviously, [St. Joe’s] has experience but we’re hungry right now. We’re not thinking about their record.”
As for Macaulay’s newfound touch from beyond the arc, Cardoza said not to get used to it.
“We’re not gonna get carried away with it,” Cardoza said. “It’s not like [Macaulay] is just gonna start firing them up now. The right situation and the right time, obviously it’s OK.”
Tyler Sablich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TySablich.