Temple women’s basketball success buoyed by healthy players

Coach Tonya Cardoza can rely on more players than last season.

Temple women's basketball players walk onto the court during the Owls' game against University of Connecticut at the Liacouras Center on Nov. 17. | NICK DAVIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After defeating Central Florida 67-65 at home on Jan. 29, the Owls improved their record to 13-8. This is two games better than last season, with eight regular season games remaining. 

During the 2018-19 season, Temple won its 11th game of the season on the road against Memphis on March 4. This year, Temple won its 11th game of the season at home against South Florida on Jan. 16. 

“When the game was pretty much over, I was staring at them and I was just so happy for them because they haven’t experienced this kind of success,” coach Tonya Cardoza said on Jan. 23 following Temple’s win over Penn. The win helped Temple clinch a share of the Big 5 title and was the Owls’ 12th overall win. 

Junior forward Mia Davis, redshirt-sophomore guard Ashley Jones and sophomore guard Marissa Mackins lead the Owls in scoring. They contribute a combined average of 49.5 points per game. 

Mackins is shooting a team-high 36.6 percent from three this season and leads the team with 63 made three-pointers. 

Last season, Temple averaged 65.2 points per game, with Davis and former guard Alliya Butts contributing a combined average of 34.1 points per game. This season, the Owls have been able to spread the scoring load around a bit more, increasing their average to 70.8 points per game. 

“On the offensive side, we don’t have just one or two guys,” Cardoza said. “Last year and the year before, we had just [Davis] and [Butts] or [Davis] and [guard] Tanaya [Atkinson]. Now, we have any guy that can get you double figures. I’ve said it over the last couple of years, if we have just two guys scoring, we’re not going to be a very good team.”

Another contributor to Temple’s relative success this season has been the health of key players. At one point last season, Temple had only seven players playing significant minutes—a relatively small number of contributors—with 14 on their roster. 

This season, Davis, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, has missed just one game; Jones, second on the team in scoring and assists, has played in 19 of the team’s 21 games this season. 

Not only has the team been relatively healthy, but they have also altered their mentality and strengthened their focus during games, Davis said.

“I think it was just everybody being on the same page not wanting to repeat last year, having another losing season, so I think we’re on the same page with that right now,” Mackins said.

The Owls have not had a winning season since the 2016-17 season, in which they made an appearance in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship tournament.

“I would say the winning mentality is what’s been working over the past few games,” Davis said. “There were a few games where we actually pulled out, focused in and buckled down to win. We want to continue that.”

The best example of the team’s mentality in close games came against Penn on Jan. 23. After falling behind by as much as 15 points and trailing by 13 points entering the fourth quarter, Temple erased the deficit in just over six minutes and won a share of the first Big 5 title for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

“Even when things weren’t going well for them, they didn’t throw in the towel,” Cardoza said after the victory. “It just proved that when we really want to do something, we can get it done.”

Cardoza admitted that the team still has work left to do, especially on the other side of the ball. The Owls’ biggest issue thus far has been their defense. Last season, they allowed 65.7 points per game; this season they allow 69.6.

“If we can play defense, I think we can beat just about anybody left on our schedule,” Cardoza said. “But, if we don’t play defense, we could lose to just about anyone on our schedule. That’s how we decide where we end up — our defense.”

Josh Grieb contributed reporting.

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