Good health will be the determining factor in close games for Temple University women’s basketball this season.
Last season, in a three-game stretch from Feb. 20-27, the Owls played with just an eight-player rotation for each of their three games, despite having 14 on the team’s roster. Six players were unable to play during that time due to injuries.
The Owls lost all three games by eight points or fewer.
“Last year, we had to start seven players because we only had seven healthy bodies,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We couldn’t afford to have injuries.”
Cardoza wants to “find the right starting mix” and provide her team with “lots of different scoring options,” she added.
With more healthy players, the Owls will give junior forward Mia Davis, the team’s captain, more opportunities to rest during games, assistant coach Willnett Crockett said.
Davis was one of two unanimous selections to The American Athletic Conference’s All-Conference First team, and keeping her healthy and taking more pressure off her to contribute points is key to the Owls’ success, Cardoza said.
Davis led the Owls last season with 18.9 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. Davis thinks she has room for improvement. she said.
“I need to communicate more with my teammates on defense and during practice so that we can be better,” she added. “I am trying to be a better and more vocal leader on defense with communication.”
The coaching staff believes the team will have healthier players this season, making for a better season, they said.
Temple’s will return sophomore guard Marissa Mackins, who averaged 8.7 points per game and shot 31.8 percent from three-point range last season.
The Owls will add redshirt-sophomore guard Ashley Jones to the rotation this season. Jones sat out last season after transferring from West Virginia University due to NCAA transfer rules. While with the Mountaineers, Jones averaged 2.8 points per game.
“We have a lot more weapons this year,” Crockett said. “[Davis is] going to be our go-to, but because we have [Jones] coming in and we have [Mackins] who can knock down shots … we have a variety of people who can score, which makes us that much more exciting this year.”
Last year’s offense allowed Davis to play in isolated positions. This season, the team will focus less on shooting jump shots, Cardoza said. The Owls only shot 38.8 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from three-point range last season.
“This year will be different because we’ll be surrounding [Davis] with different teams and different looks,” Cardoza said. “We’re going to have more post presence and won’t rely as much on shooting jump shots.”
Temple must also replace guard Alliya Butts, who graduated last season. Butts led the team with 185 three-point shot attempts and was the Owls’ second-leading scorer averaging 15.2 points per game.
Mackins finished second on the team with 179 three-point attempts. Graduate forward Lena Niang was third on the team with 107 attempts, which she converted at a 33.6 percent rate.
“We want to have people playing multiple positions,” Cardoza said. “We like to have versatile players and shoot threes, but we want to shoot high-percentage shots.”
Temple will open up the season at home tonight at 6 p.m. against Fairfield University.