For the Temple University women’s basketball team, American Athletic Conference play kicks off with five consecutive games against five of the top six highest-scoring teams in the league.
The Owls (4-11, 0-3 The American) are going through their toughest stretch of the season. After going 2-3 in December, they’ve lost four straight games to start January and have matchups this week with Cincinnati and Connecticut (14-1, 3-0 The American), who is tied for second in the Associated Press Top 25.
“Right now, everything has been difficult,” coach Tonya Cardoza said last week. “I feel like our nonconference schedule was difficult. We are just taking it one game at a time trying to get better, executing better and understanding better. There has been growth, but it does not show in the outcome of the game.”
Temple started conference play with a 63-53 road loss to South Florida (10-7, 1-2 The American), a 66-57 home loss to Tulane (13-3, 3-0 The American) and Saturday’s 78-65 road loss to Houston (8-8, 2-1 The American).
In the games against USF and Tulane, the Owls shot 31.3 percent and 38.3 percent from the field, respectively. Their shooting percentage was worse beyond the arc, only shooting 30.8 percent and 20.7 percent.
Temple struggled shooting the basketball in its first 15 games. The Owls are shooting 38.1 percent from the field and just 27.5 percent from 3-point range.
Last season, the Owls shot 38.4 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from 3-point range. Cardoza thinks a shift in offensive style is to blame for the team’s early-season struggles.
“The difference between this year and last year for us is that we did not rely so much on 3-point shooting,” Cardoza said. “We got the ball into [sophomore forward] Mia [Davis] and [former guard] Tanaya [Atkinson] and they are great offensive rebounders, so when one missed the other could get the rebound.”
Temple’s saving grace so far this season is its improvement on the defensive end, Cardoza added. Last season, Temple gave up 72.7 points per game and averaged 5.6 steals a game.
The Owls have improved in both categories this season. Temple is holding its opponents to 66.1 points per game and averaging 9.2 steals per game.
Although Cardoza said she is pleased with Temple’s improvement on the defensive end, she is still emphasizing the need for her team to get up more shots at practice.
“We have to get in the gym,” Cardoza said. “You’re not gonna make shots if you do not get in the gym. You are not just gonna snap and all of a sudden make shots. Anybody that has a profession, you have to work really hard to perfect your craft.”
Temple’s next two opponents, UConn and Cincinnati (9-7, 1-2 The American), rank first and sixth in the conference in scoring, respectively. UConn scores 81.5 points per game while Cincinnati averages 64.4 points per game this season.
When playing UConn, Tulane, Cincinnati, USF and Houston last season, the Owls went 0-7, averaging 71.3 points per game while giving up 100.3 points per game.
In its games against USF, Tulane and Houston this season Temple has allowed 69 points per game.
“On defense, we are picking up better this year and we are communicating more”, freshman guard Marissa Mackins said. “We are getting more defensive rebounds, but we have a long way to go on the defensive end still.”