Senior center Victoria Macaulay said she had no idea how many blocks she had in today’s 54-50 win over Atlantic 10 Conference rival Saint Louis.
“I was just trying to be a little more disciplined by staying on my feet and keeping my hands up,” Macaulay said. “[The ball] just came to my hands on some of the shots I blocked. Defense is the most important part of the game.”
Macaulay blocked a career-high nine shots, two blocks shy of Temple’s (11-12, 4-4) single-game record. She also recorded 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting and four rebounds in the midst of her strong defensive performance.
Aside from Macaulay’s input, the Owls had three other starters finish in double-figures. Redshirt-junior forward Natasha Thames, freshman forward Sally Kabengano and freshman guard Meghan Roxas all finished with eleven points. Freshman point guard Tyonna Williams was the only starter who had difficulty scoring, going 0-for-10 from the floor, but she dished out ten assists.
Coach Tonya Cardoza said the win over the Billikens (10-13, 4-4) was one of the Owls’ best all-around performances this season.
“From start to finish, on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Cardoza said. “They fought, they competed, they stuck with the game plan, and they gave everything that they had. And that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
The first half went back and forth, with both teams playing solid defense and limiting the opposition’s chances. However, the Owls went into the break with momentum on they’re side after Macaulay hit a buzzer beater to tie the game at 25.
The second half was more of the same. Temple never trailed in the game’s final seven minutes, but they never led by more than three points until the closing seconds.
Fittingly, the game’s final 90 seconds was a seesaw battle with both teams trying to come away with a tough win. With Temple clinging to a one-point lead, St. Louis was called for a three-second violation. The Owls missed the basket on their next time down the court but they retained possession after the Billikens were called for a foul under the basket. Temple then missed again, but the ball dribbled out of bounds off of a Billiken.
Down by two with 21 seconds remaining, St. Louis had the potential game-tying shot blocked down low, and Williams hit both at the line to seal the game for Temple.
“Today, I felt like they really wanted to play for each other and win for each other,” Cardoza said. “The last two minutes I feel like we came up with some crucial plays where maybe in the past, we would let the tired get to us.”
Cardoza was without sophomore guard Rateska Brown today, who was suspended for the game for unspecified reasons. Roxas stepped in and made her first career start in place of Brown.
“I know [Roxas] is capable of doing pretty much the same thing [as Brown],” Cardoza said. “Obviously, if [Brown] was here then [Roxas] wouldn’t have been able to play those minutes. I think she stepped in and did a heck of a job.”
Roxas scored eleven points and grabbed seven rebounds, going 4-of-8 from the field. She nailed her first three attempts from beyond the arc. She said an improved mindset has helped her settle into Cardoza’s rotation.
“Not thinking too much, just catching and shooting because that’s what they need me to do,” Roxas said. “Sometimes I catch it and think pass first, and I shouldn’t be doing that. Just working hard, finding my shot and letting the game come to me.”
Temple’s inconsistencies this season have been evident, as only time will tell if the Owls can build off of such a well-rounded win over St. Louis. They will be back in action on Wednesday Feb. 10 against a struggling Rhode Island squad (5-17, 0-7).
Tyler Sablich can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TySablich.