For most birds, flying at a low trajectory could prove costly to their well-being. This season, however, the Owls have flown to a 23-6 record, including a 13-1 Atlantic Ten Conference record, on the lowest of scopes.
Unlike the previous four seasons, the Owls came into the 2006-07 campaign in an unfamiliar position.Winners of four the last five A-10 Championships, the Owls were not favored to win their fourth-consecutive crown after losing all-American
Candice Dupree to the WNBA.
Once a regular in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, the Owls have failed to crack the top 25 rankings this season despite their near-perfect conference record and a very Chaney-esque non-conference schedule.
Recently, the Owls have garnered some attention, capturing a few votes in the AP poll. But with four of six losses coming to opponents who are now ranked, including a loss to then-No.1 Maryland in December, a gripe regarding their position entering the NCAA Tournament can easily be understood.
Though the results have been the same, this season’s recipe for success has included a few more ingredients. The star-power has remained consistent, as Kamesha Hairston has filled Dupree’s vacancy quite nicely, to the tune of 19.5 points per game and 8.6 rebounds a game.
Yet it has been the maturation of her supporting cast that has been most surprising. Competing against ranked programs such as Rutgers and Bowling Green, as well as the A-10’s best, will do that.
Steady guard play and the emergence of Lady Comfort (13.1 ppg) as a formidable post presence has been enough to keep opposing teams on their heals. Whether it is a slow, half-court grinder or an up-and-down, fast-paced game, the Owls have managed to reach a level of flexibility in their game that should come in handy come tournament
time. The unexpected and immediate growth of newcomers has also played a key role.
Freshmen Jasmine Stone and LaKeisha Eaddy
have made an impact far more noticeable than their stats. Stone, who grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds in Friday’s win against Duquesne, has added an extra-dimension of athleticism to the frontcourt off the bench.
Eaddy’s presence has allowed the more natural scorer, Fatima Maddox, to move to the off-guard position where more shots are available. Maddox has enjoyed success too, averaging 11.3 points. And all this couldn’t have come together at a better time. The Owls entered Sunday’s game against their rival and currently No. 8-ranked George Washington equally hot.
Winners of eight in a row and 19 of their last 20, the Owls were primed to dish out an upset. They fell a three-pointer shy.
Although the Colonials have more than owned Temple – winning 26 of their last 30 regular season meetings – the Owls have managed to show up when the real money is on the line. That’s beating the Colonials in the A-10 Championship game to secure the conference’s automatic bid. And it could happen again this weekend in Cincinnati, the site of this season’s A-10 Championship tournament.
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org