The women’s basketball team decided after the new year that beginning Atlantic Ten Conference play last week would be like opening up a brand new season.
The Owls have played exceptionally well since then and continued their dominance with an 81-34 trouncing of Rhode Island at the Liacouras Center Wednesday night, which pushed the team to 2-0 in conference play.
“Once the new year started, we talked about it being a different season now,” coach Tonya Cardoza said after the game. “With the A-10 season starting, holding home court is definitely important, and so far, we’ve got two wins under our belt. Hopefully, we can keep it up.”
The Owls (10-6, 2-0) should have no problem continuing to win if they can match Wednesday’s dominance, which tied the largest margin of victory for Temple since Cardoza became head coach in 2008.
Cardoza believes that the rout will help to make up for some of the non-conference games that, she believes, her team should have won.
“I thought it was a great effort by our guys,” Cardoza said. “We came out right from the start and never let up. The intensity level that we played with was something that I was definitely happy to see. All year long, this has been what we’ve been harping on, getting up for games like this. Finally, we’ve done it, and hopefully it will carry over to the rest of the season.”
Temple held Rhode Island (6-10, 0-2) to a dismal 23.4 percent from the floor and forced the Rams turn the ball over 25 times on the night. The Owls, on the other hand, shot 47.8 percent and posted a solid 15 to 12 assist to turnover ratio for the night.
The Owls opened the game with a tough rebound and put-back by sophomore center Victoria Macaulay, and then gave up a quick three-pointer to Rams senior guard Megan Schoniker, who averaged a team-high 20.7 points coming into Wednesday’s game.
Schoniker’s three-pointer was an early wakeup call for Temple but marked the final time that Rhode Island would lead the contest.
On Temple’s ensuing possession, senior guard Qwedia Wallace nailed a shot from behind the arc to give Temple a two-point lead. The Owls took over the game from there, holding Schoniker, who finished with a team-high 13 points and four rebounds, in check for the rest of the game.
The Owls gradually extended their lead to an impressive 23 points at the half and more than doubled that lead by time the final whistle blew.
Freshman guard Satoria Bell scored a team-high 17 points off the bench to lead Temple, and junior forward Kristen McCarthy posted 16 points, 12 of which came in the first half, to help establish the early lead.
“I thought Kristen came out with great intensity,” Cardoza said. “I think that’s one of the reasons we got off to a good start. She was all over the place and vocal. She was able to knock down some shots for us early, and I thought she never let up.”
McCarthy was also satisfied with her individual performance but valued the opportunity to watch her teammates come off the bench and play extended minutes.
“For the first time all season, it was fun to be on the bench and able to cheer my other teammates on,” McCarthy said. “I think it was a good thing for us. Like coach said, a lot of times when we play teams that aren’t as talented as us, we play down to their level. Tonight, we played hard and aggressive the entire game, and this was the result.”
“That’s what you always want. You want those guys, who don’t always get an opportunity to get in there, to get in and enjoy it,” Cardoza added.
Although Cardoza was thrilled with her team’s performance, she maintains that there is still plenty of room for improvement and pointed out that Macaulay, who tallied seven points and eight rebounds, can play much better.
“I expect more from Victoria, and I think she knows that,” Cardoza said. “I thought she could have gotten a double-double.”
“Like coach said, I could have been better and done a lot more,” Macaulay added. “I could be better at making lay-ups and things like that.”
Macaulay’s next chance to establish herself under the basket will come Saturday afternoon at Fordham as the Owls attempt to advance to 3-0 in the conference.
Jeffrey Janiczek can be reached at email@example.com.