The women’s basketball team will kick off its season Saturday against Florida International in the Michigan State Tournament.
Both teams are returning its third and fourth leading scorers. While the Golden Panthers finished last season with a first round loss in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, Temple did not make the postseason after bowing out in the semifinals of the Atlantic Ten Championship playoffs.
The Owls and Panthers split their exhibition games; Temple lost to Team Concept last Friday after Florida International handily beat the traveling team.
Building off last season’s 14-15 record, the Owls’ core remains intact.
Sophomore center Candice Dupree is the squad’s top returning scorer, averaging 10.4 points per game before injuring her foot last season. Also providing an offensive surge in the frontcourt is senior small forward Toni Belafonte.
Senior guard Christena Hamilton, junior forward Ari Moore and junior guard Cynthia Jordan round out the potential starting lineup.
A solid bench separates this team from coach Dawn Staley’s past squads. Senior forward Tynecia Pam is considered a sixth starter by Staley. And freshman guard Britney Jordan, who was named to the preseason A-10 all-rookie team, will provide a welcomed boost as she gets acclimated at the collegiate level.
If Temple beats Florida International, they play the winner of the Davidson/Michigan State game. Here’s what Temple needs to do:
Control the tempo– With a small frontcourt, rebounding will be a daunting task. Using speed early in the game – tracking down loose balls and pushing the ball up court – will not only make for fastbreak points, but will also wear down the opponents’ defense. “We have to play at our tempo,” Staley said. “Big girls aren’t going to move around a lot unless we make them move around.”
Stay out of foul trouble– The team did so in their two preseason match-ups. Going up against taller and stronger players like those of Florida International, however, could spell trouble for the Owls. Temple will get an early test from Golden Panthers’ guard Ivelina Vrancheva, a preseason Sun Belt Conference team selection.
Limit turnovers– Poor ball handling early in the game may hurt in the waning moments like it did against Team Concept. Temple made 27 steals in both preseason games, but committed 36 turnovers. “I’d rather throw the ball up at the basket,” Staley said, “than turn the ball over because it gives us an opportunity to get some offensive rebounds.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.