The Owls traveled to Ohio last weekend as part of a three-game road swing. And coach Dawn Staley’s resilient squad left Ohio with two conference wins, holding on to defeat Dayton 58-55, then knocking off Xavier 61-50. In both contests, the Owls never trailed, leading by as many as 20 points at Dayton and 22 points against Xavier.
The two wins, coupled with Saint Joseph’s loss, gave Temple sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Ten East division. The Owls (13-8, 9-1) now return home for three games, the first of which is tonight against Duquesne at 7 p.m. at the Liacouras Center.
With the A-10 schedule winding down, the Owls look strong going into March. But if Temple does not win the A-10 tournament, however, it will then have to rely heavily on its RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) to gain a berth into the NCAA Tournament. The RPI is a barometer for the NCAA Selection Committee, which uses certain criteria to decide which teams are worthy of a berth.
The Owls currently have a 62 RPI rating. With that rating, the Owls have a fair shot at a tournament bid, but the team’s chances could have been greatly increased had their non-conference record (4-7) been more stable. They can improve their RPI by continuing to collect more wins.
But senior guard Christena Hamilton does not believe their postseason dreams should boil down to the RPI. Receiving an invitation to the NCAA Tournament starts with winning the A-10.
“We’re very confident in our chances in this conference,” Hamilton said. “We’re attacking every chance we get. We’re trying to prove to every A-10 team that we are the best team in this conference.”
Dishing It Out
In Sunday’s win at Xavier, Temple used an all-out team effort in dishing out 16 assists. But as a team the Owls rank only ninth in the conference in assists.
Junior point guard Cynthia Jordan ranks first, but in a far more important statistic: assist-to-turnover ratio. For every turnover, Jordan racked up nearly two assists to lead the conference. Last weekend she totaled eight assists to just two turnovers, and in her first year as a starter she is averaging 4.2 assists per game.
Home, Sweet Home
After an impressive road trip in which the Owls took two of three, Temple will play four of its next five at Liacouras Center. The Owls are 6-3 at home this season, including 4-0 against A-10 opponents.
Here’s who Temple will face this weekend:
Duquesne has a 12-10 mark and are currently in second place in the A-10 West division. Looking to improve on that record is senior Candace Futrell. Futrell has paced the team all season, leading Duquesne in scoring 17 of 22 games. Futrell is ranked fifth nationally in points per game, scoring 21.7 points per game.
St. Bonaventure (7-14, 3-7) is struggling through a tough season at the bottom of the East division. Senior Stefanie Collins is the lone bright spot for the Bonnies and is ranked seventh in the country in three-point field goal percentage.
She is also among the conference leaders in scoring, pacing the Bonnies with 16.5 points per game. The Owls take on St. Bonaventure on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., the second part of a doubleheader.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.