The Owls will look to their returning starters after losing Qwedia Wallace.
After falling one game short of an Atlantic Ten Conference championship game appearance last year, the women’s basketball team finds itself in a rough spot trying to find a way to replace one of the team’s best scoring threats, former guard Qwedia Wallace.
Last season Wallace averaged 13.5 points per game and became the program’s all-time leading three-point shooter. Along with guard Shey Peddy and forward Kristen McCarthy, then juniors, Wallace was the senior leader of Temple’s “Big Three.”
“It’s huge,” coach Tonya Cardoza said of losing senior leader Wallace. “We lose one of our best three-point shooters, one of our better defenders, someone who understands the game and is willing to do whatever it takes.”
“[Wallace] had a big impact and she helped me become more comfortable on the court last year because we had a bond,” Peddy said. “I knew where she would be on the court and she knew where I would be and I played off of her.”
Wallace was an offensive force, leading the team in free-throw percentage, three-point conversions and was second in scoring behind Peddy. She played at her best against tough competition, scoring 32 points in the season opener against No. 7 Ohio State and 21 against No. 3 Duke.
“[Wallace] led by example and worked a lot harder in her senior year because she wanted to go out doing something great,” Cardoza said.
Temple lost its regular season finale against Xavier, snapping a 13-game winning streak, and was upset by Dayton a week later in the A-10 semifinals. The loss hurt Wallace, who never won a conference championship in four seasons on North Broad.
“After we didn’t win the A-10 championship last year, it just made me think, ‘Dang, [Wallace] doesn’t have another shot at this,’” McCarthy said.
“Winning a title would’ve been a wonderful accomplishment at Temple,” Wallace said in an email. “Every ball player’s dream is to win some kind of championship.”
Three weeks later the Owls lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to No. 9 Notre Dame, and the Wallace era was finished.
Now the team must find a way to replace a player who scored 1,190 points in 125 career games, and someone who was a vocal leader. She spent much of her first two seasons as a contributor off the bench, and then excelled in her junior year as the first player off the bench. Last season was her first full season as a starter and she became an integral member of the “Big Three” with Peddy and McCarthy, who combined for 40.8 points and 13.8 rebounds per game.
“My time at Temple went by really fast,” Wallace said. “I grew as a person and a basketball player. I just remember all of the hard work I went through and thinking that I made it.”
“Watching [Wallace] from her sophomore year to her senior year was drastically different and that was mostly from her having confidence in herself and not letting little things get to her,” Cardoza said.
Now the team is looking to senior guard BJ Williams to step in as the new member of the Big Three. Cardoza feels the offense will be more fast-paced with Williams as the point guard, but the team knows she has big shoes to fill and nothing is a guarantee.
“Now we have [Williams] to step up and be part of the new Big Three,” Peddy said. “But we have a lot of making up to do.”
The Owls also acknowledged that whoever fills the two remaining starting spots in the front court will also have the added pressure of filling in the hole. Junior forward Brittany Lewis, who is fighting for one of those spots, sees the post players pushing themselves every day to have a bigger impact.
The current crop of seniors are even more motivated to bring a conference championship back to Temple after watching one of their best players leave without one. Peddy and McCarthy are determined to avoid the same fate.
“Seeing how relentless she was, this year I have a ‘Qwedia mindset’ like that,” Peddy said.
“I don’t want my season to end, because this time when it ends, it really ends,” McCarthy said. “It’s over.”
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com.