Owls show resilience in unprecedented season

Temple Women’s Basketball finished their season with a record of 11-18, but the record did not reflect their hard work.

Next season, the Owls will play at least four teams from the 2023 NCAA Tournament field in Villanova, Mississippi, East Carolina, and South Florida. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Women’s Basketball (11-18, 6-10 American Athletic Conference) did not have the season it was looking for. The Owls went on two and three-game losing streaks and a six-game drought this season, ultimately resulting in a first-round conference tournament exit.

With a new coach, injuries, an unapproved transfer and unexpected departures in the middle of the season, Temple is ready to move on. 

“It was definitely a learning process,” said head coach Diane Richardson. “We had a lot of ups and downs, and quite frankly, I’m glad it’s over. I’m planning on next season already.”

When Temple hired former Towson coach Diane Richardson last April, she brought three former players with her: guards Aleah Nelson and Tarriyonna Gary and forward Rayne Tucker. 

Nelson and Gary fit right in as Temple’s constant mainstays in the rotation. Nelson, a first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association player in 2022, made third-team All-AAC this year. 

In her first season at Temple, Nelson was the Owls’ offensive focal point and served as the team’s top vocal leader.

Nelson earned second-team All-AAC honors, leading the team in points per game with 15.4 and assists averaging 4.4 assists per game. The guard also encouraged her team to finish strong regardless of the score in contests this past season. 

Tucker was ineligible to play this season as her transfer wasn’t approved by the NCAA.

The Owls were also without the services of 2022 first-team All-Northeast Conference guard Kendall Currence this year as she tore her ACL in the preseason.

With those two already down for the count, Temple’s four additional departures left the Owls with just eight available players for their final 10 games.

Guards Kourtney Wilson and Jalynn Holmes left the program prior to the Owls’ Jan. 25 win at Tulane, and guards Jasha Clinton and Aniya Gourdine were suspended. 

Two days later, Clinton and Gourdine were dismissed from the program. 

“We were prepared for the typical transition year,” Richardson said. “But to lose players was a little bit different …Those eight players stepped up and did more than we asked them to do.”

The team adapted well at first, winning three-straight games against Tulane, Central Florida and Wichita State. However, fatigue eventually got the best of Temple, leading to the team’s six-game losing streak in February. 

During the winless streak, sophomore forward Caranda Perea acknowledged Richardson’s sentiments on how the team could clean up its mistakes. 

“I think Coach said it best, just being focused,” Perea said. “Doing the little things that we need to do like talking, rebounding, playing defense, because you can’t control if the shots are going to fall. You control your effort every night and I feel like that’s something that we need to do better.”

Richardson’s first season as the Owls’ head coach battle-tested her team. The Owls played the 65th-toughest schedule in the country and faced six teams each from the NCAA Tournament and NIT fields.  

Richardson wants to continue beginning seasons against tougher opponents as Temple will play at least four teams from the 2023 NCAA Tournament field in Villanova, Mississippi, East Carolina and South Florida. Richardson also announced non-conference matchups with Arizona State and Northwestern.

“We’ll play some teams out there to kind of get us tough again,” Richardson said. “This year, we’ll have more personnel to be able to finish it out.”

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