The women’s basketball team doesn’t want to revisit the pain of last season’s Atlantic Ten Conference Championship.
In fact, they really can’t afford to.
Last year, the Owls entered the A-10 Tournament fairly confident that they were heading to the NCAA Tournament no matter what happened. But this year is a different story.
With No. 1-seeded Temple (19-11, 12-2 A-10) squarely on the bubble, losing in the semi-finals of the A-10 Tournament, like they did in 2007, may not get them into the Big Dance.
So, plain and simple, the Owls need to win and not leave things up the Selection Committee.
And the pressure of leading the Owls to a conference championship will be on senior guard Ashley Morris. The feisty local product had a banner year, leading the team in points with 15.1 per game and assists with 4.3 per contest. She was also named the conference’s most improved player and was a member of its first team.
Last year the pressure fell on the back of Kameisha Hairston, who is now a member of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. And all Morris has to do to learn what is at stake is read her former teammates teary-eyed reaction to not bringing home the A-10 crown to North Broad Street.
“It hurts a lot,” Hairston said last year. “I kind of measured this season on whether we could win a title or not, whether I could carry my team. It didn’t happen.”
But Morris may be up for the task. She spent her first three seasons on the bench before getting the chance to showcase her skills this year.
Entering each game with a no-holds-barred mentality, the Central High School graduate has the kind of mentality teams are looking for out of their best player.
“I’m not intimidated by anyone,” Morris said in December. “I don’t care if they have Duke on their jersey, I don’t care if they have N.C. State on their jersey, I don’t care if I’m at practice and it says Temple on their jersey. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to play the same. It’s no different.”
The Owls will need Morris to be on the top of her game in order to bring home the A-10 title. The Owls had won three straight A-10 Tournament titles before they lost to Xavier in last year’s semi-final game. Combine that with their win in 2002, and there is certainly a solid tradition of winning that coach Dawn Staley has become accustomed to.
“When we first came to Temple and I said we could win A-10 championships, people thought we were crazy,” the eighth-year coach said after the Owls beat Massachusetts on March 1. “No one in the A-10 or anybody else really gave us a shot at where we are today.”
The Owls enter this weekend’s tournament as the No. 1 seed and will play the winner of Friday’s match-up between No. 8 Richmond (13-18, 6-8) and No. 9 Duquesne (15-14, 6-8). That second round game will take place Saturday at noon at the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on the campus of Saint Joseph’s University, the site of this year’s tournament.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.
Also read: “Waiting it out”