It’s been a whirlwind tour for the women’s basketball team since the New Year.
Three straight losses marked the beginning of 2008, but a rejuvenating seven-game win streak had the Owls (14-11, 7-2 Atlantic Ten Conference) just a few paces away from the pole position in the A-10. Last Saturday’s 64-55 loss to host Xavier at the Cintas Center broke the winning streak, but an eight-day layoff will give the Owls a chance to catch their breath, and focus on fundamentals. After the hiatus, the Owls return to battle at the Liacouras Center against Duquesne (11-12, 2-6), a team who is currently 0-10 on the road.
“When we have long stretches like this in between games, coach [Dawn Staley] sends the focus on working on us [and] the things we need to get better at as a team. [Like] free throw shooting, boxing out – just things like that,” senior guard Ashley Morris said. “Working on our conditioning to make sure we’re ready to play for 40 minutes in our next game. We just pretty much work on ourselves.”
Staley looks to keep her team fresh by implementing a few new strategies on offense. She also said she wants to capitalize on this time by concentrating on areas where the Owls have been underperforming.
“We’re going to just try to put in some new plays because coming down the stretch, teams will have seen us play, they will know our signals and our play calls,” Staley said. “We just want to throw a wrinkle in with some new offenses and defensively we just have to tighten up in areas in which I know we’re not playing well which is transition defense.”
Statistically, the Owls are leading the A-10 in points allowed per game, surrendering only 56.1 points per contest, but away from the security of the half-court set, the team has had issues recovering against quick competition.
Offensively, Temple ranks 12th of 14 A-10 teams in production. The Owls are putting up 58.5 points per game, but two players have earned a spot in the starting lineup by generating noticeable results.
Junior transfer Shanea Cotton has been working diligently on the offensive glass, capturing a team-high 65 offensive boards on the season. Freshman guard Lindsay Kimmel has sparked the perimeter game, shooting a team-high 35.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Thanks in part to Cotton and Kimmel’s contributions, the Owls have averaged a much improved 62.7 points in their last four games.
“Lindsay’s out there to spread the defense out and open up the floor for us,” Morris said. “Shanea, she’s out there rebounding, playing well defensively. I just think they’ve been great additions to the lineup.”
“Both of them really concentrated on areas in which we were lacking,” Staley added. “I think Shanea has been a scoring threat on the floor, just by her offensive rebounds. She’s always going to be on the boards.”
In the break before their next game, the Owls will have time to reflect and build on the positives, while stabilizing and minimizing the weaknesses. This year’s team has worked hard to find an identity, and Staley is optimistic about the possibilities.
“Do I think we have a good basketball team— good personnel, people who have been playing well this year? Yes. I do think we have the personnel to be successful, we just need them all doing their jobs when it’s time to play,” Staley said.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com