Temple women’s basketball awaits potential tournament bid

It is unlikely the Owls will receive an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament after losing 15 games.

Redshirt-sophomore guard Ashley Jones prepares to shoot during the Owls’ 64-68 loss against Tulsa at McGonigle Hall on Feb. 29. | NICHOLAS DAVIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Despite a mid-season five-game win streak, Temple University women’s basketball entered a slump to end the season, risking a post-season run. 

Still, the team hopes to appear in a tournament, which will be announced on March 16. 

The Owls (16-15, 7-9 The AAC) lost 94-61 to Connecticut (28-3, 16-0 The AAC) on March 7. 

If Temple had beaten the Huskies and gone on to win The American Athletic Conference Tournament, it would have received an automatic bid to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Now, the team is unlikely to receive a bid due to its average record. 

The Owls are more likely to receive an invitation to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, associate head coach Way Veney said.

The NIT typically invites teams that rank in the top 150 in Ratings Percentage Index and have a winning percentage of .500 or better. Temple satisfies both requirements by virtue of its 16-15 record and 116th-overall ranking in RPI. 

The NIT will announce its selections on March 16, after the NCAA has announced which teams have made the NCAA Tournament. 

“We talked about that being our goal in the beginning of the season,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I feel like we let some games slip away that we definitely could have been sitting here knowing that we’re going to the postseason.”

Defensive struggles and poor shooting held Temple back in the loss to the Huskies, as the Owls allowed 53.8 percent on three-point field goal attempts. 

Temple was plagued by the same issues in similar blowout losses to Florida Gulf Coast University in December and South Florida in February. In all three losses, Temple allowed a three-point shot rate above 40 percent, well above each team’s average three-point percentage.

Temple struggled to score — relative to their season average of 68.5 — in all three of those contests. Temple scored 51 against South Florida, one of the lowest-scoring performances of the season. The Owls also scored on a lower percentage of three-point shots in those three games, shooting a combined 20.9 percent from three-point range. 

Temple lost its last four regular-season games, which lowered its standings in The American, leading to the second-round matchup with the Huskies. 

“Just like coach said, we’re at the end of the season, hoping we can have a postseason, and if we can’t we’re just going to come back better and work harder for next year,” said junior forward and team captain Mia Davis.

Davis led the team with 18.8 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game this season. Davis also shot 47.2 percent from the field despite the Owls’ struggle to score in their final games. 

Davis is among 10 players who will return for the 2020-21 season. Six of these players saw more than 400 minutes this season. 

Davis started all 30 games she played and recorded more than 1000 total minutes to lead the team. The 2020-21 season will be her last. 

Redshirt-sophomore guard Ashley Jones and sophomore guard Marissa Mackins both played more than 890 minutes. Freshman guard Asonah Alexander played 786 minutes and started 13 games. 

Jones was selected The American’s Newcomer of the Year and made Second Team All-Conference. Alexander was named to the All-Freshman team. 

With Connecticut leaving The American after this season, Cardoza believes the conference will be “wide open” next season. 

“If we do what we’re supposed to do, we get in the gym and we work hard, maybe we could be the new UConn of The American,” Cardoza added. 

Joshua Grieb contributed reporting.

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