It took junior forward Alexa Williamson some early season success and reassurance from her teammates for her to find the confidence to become one of Temple University women’s basketball’s leading scorers.
“It just comes down to confidence,” Williamson said. “My teammates are very supportive and the guards get me the ball really well.”
The Houston, Pennsylvania, native is stepping up in the middle of the Owls’ offense as a potent interior scorer and on defense as the team’s best shot blocker while Temple looks to secure a high seat in March’s American Athletic Conference tournament.
In the five games prior to Temple’s 58-57 victory over East Carolina on Feb. 13, Williamson averaged 14 points per game, including a career-high 21 points against Cincinnati on Feb. 3.
Temple went 2-3 over that stretch, and Williamson shot 49 percent from the floor and took 34 free throws.
The Owls’ offense works best when Williamson and senior forward Mia Davis get the ball close to the basket and score or generate free throw opportunities.
“[Williamson] and [Davis’] presence inside, I feel like right now they’re really focused on trying to get those post touches because those are higher percentage shots,” said head coach Tonya Cardoza.
Williamson’s high scoring in the paint is also helping Temple’s guards find easier opportunities to score because the defense is focused on collapsing into the paint, leaving the perimeter open.
Freshman guard Jasha Clinton is averaging 13.1 points a game and notices a difference in how the defense plays when Williamson is playing well, Clinton said.
“When you have guys like [Davis] and [Williamson] to pick you up on and off the court, it helps,” Clinton added.
Williamson is also making an impact on the defensive end of the court by leading the team with 22 total blocks this season, including three blocks against Cincinnati on Feb. 3.
Her 6-foot-1-inch height is a mismatch defensively, and she makes it difficult for teams to score in the middle of the paint by forcing offensive players to shoot in awkward ways to get the ball above her.
This was evident when Williamson missed a Jan. 13 matchup against Cincinnati when senior forward IImar’I Thomas scored 24 points for the Bearcats. In the rematch on Feb. 3, Williamson guarded Thomas one-on-one and limited the AAC-leading scorer to just eight points.
“When [Thomas] got into foul trouble early, coach told us we need to double down on her in the post when she gets the ball,” Williamson said.
It worked, and Williamson’s man-to-man coverage was key to the Owls’ 69-53 victory, as she towered over Thomas and forced her to take difficult shots.
Foul trouble is the only thing holding Williamson back during her breakout season. When Williamson can stay on the court, defenses have a tough time containing her and Davis, but she’s averaging just higher than three fouls per game.
On Feb. 13 against the Pirates, Williamson only played 16 minutes due to foul trouble but scored nine points and blocked a shot.
Williamson picked up at least four fouls in seven of Temple’s 16 games and fouled out once against East Carolina on Jan. 6.
Keeping Williamson on the court is key for the Owls to make a run in the AAC tournament this season, Cardoza said.
“She knows that she’s really good, and for us to be successful, she has to score for us,” Cardoza said. “She has to be out on the floor. I think she’s put the pressure on herself now that she knows that we need her and she’s, she’s counted on and she’s stepping up to the plate.”