Last weekend’s women’s basketball action was a microcosm of what many expect the 2012–13 season to look like.
The Owls are a young and energetic squad with a ton of undeveloped talent. In Temple’s 55–41 win against Montana on Nov. 9, the Owls ran the floor well and began hitting their open looks in the second half – highlighted by a 21 point, 16 rebound performance by senior center Victoria Macaulay. However, at Nebraska on Sunday, Nov. 11, the Owls turned the ball over 22 times in route to a 64–39 loss to the Cornhuskers. Macaulay was held to six points and five rebounds and went 3-for-8 shooting.
Coach Tonya Cardoza knew heading into the season that her squad may be a work in progress. But for the first time in her Temple tenure, she has a team that is entirely composed of her own recruits. Cardoza said the Nebraska game may have been a rude awakening for the Owls.
“I’m hoping that it’s a wake-up call because it’s things that we talk about in practice every single day – valuing the basketball and boxing out,” Cardoza said. “[Nebraska] was a sure sign that if you don’t do those things, you could get embarrassed. We talked about maybe not being the most talented team out on the floor, but we can do the little things and make sure we out-work people.”
When opposing defenses collapse on Macaulay in the paint, sophomore point guard Tyonna Williams is one of the handful of guards being heavily relied upon to knock down open outside shots. Through the Owls’ first two games, however, Williams has struggled. She is shooting 1-for-14 from the floor on the young season, with eight points and five assists. Williams has also turned the ball over 10 times.
Williams, typically a two guard under Cardoza’s regime, has transitioned to the point position in wake of sophomore point guard Monaye Merritt’s season-ending ACL injury. Before the season started, Cardoza took notice of Williams’ hard work and dedication to step up and fill the void left by Merritt and last year’s senior guards Shey Peddy and Kristen McCarthy.
Cardoza said she believes her young guards were flustered and outmatched by the Cornhuskers Sunday.
“This is the first time that they’ve ever been in this situation where they’re the main guys and they have to handle the pressure and initiate the defense,” Cardoza said. “[Williams] got to play some last year, but if there was ever a situation like this, someone else could get in there and handle it.”
Others fared better in the team’s opening weekend. Sophomore guard Rateska Brown provided a spark off the bench Friday with 13 points. Freshman starting shooting guard May Dayan collected eight points, including two three-balls, though she turned the ball over four times. In Sunday’s loss to the Cornhuskers, freshman guard Erica Covile led the Owls with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting, after shooting 1-for-5 in her Temple debut on Friday.
These are the up-and-down performances that are expected from a team compiled of nine freshmen and sophomores, a squad that was picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason rankings. However, Cardoza believes there is an upside to being perceived as a non-contender.
“No one knows what we have,” Cardoza said. “Some of the kids we have, no one has ever heard of them. [Being overlooked] is fine with us. Maybe [opposing teams] don’t prepare and we sneak in and beat them.”
With maturation and development, the consistency and stability will gradually become apparent. Until then, the 2012–13 women’s team may test the patience of its coaching staff, players and fan base.
Tyler Sablich can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TySablich.