Temple women’s basketball’s ‘disappointing season’ ends in AAC tourney

The Owls did not live up to their own expectations, finishing the year with an 11-19 record.

Graduate student guard Alliya Butts falls to the ground after a play during Temple’s 78-70 win against Cincinnati on Feb. 17 at McGonigle Hall. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Coach Tonya Cardoza attributes Temple University women’s basketball’s losing season to a less technical skill — listening. 

“We talk all the time about how listening doesn’t take effort,” Cardoza said. “All it takes is you paying attention. And if we just paid attention and listened, this season could have been something completely different.”

The Owls finished with an 11-19 record because players struggled with a seemingly basic, yet imperative skill, which led Cardoza to call this a “disappointing season.” 

The Owls went 7-9 in American Athletic Conference play and ended their season with a first-round loss in the conference tournament to Memphis on Friday in Connecticut. In that game, Temple held a 15-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter but allowed Memphis to come back. 

“Looking back at our season, we definitely under-achieved,” Cardoza said. “I felt like coming into this year, that our expectation was a lot greater than what we actually got accomplished. We didn’t live up to the potential that we actually had.”

The Owls began this season hoping to bounce back from a 12-19 record in the 2017-18 season. Graduate student guard Alliya Butts, who is the No. 2 scorer in Temple history, returned from an ACL injury that forced her to miss last season, and the Owls had freshmen guard Marissa Mackins and forward Alexa Williamson, both with scoring potential, Cardoza said. 

“At the beginning of the season, I think everybody wanted a winning season since we struggled a little last year,” sophomore forward Mia Davis said. “I feel as though it was a little similar because we were losing a lot of games, but toward the middle of it, when we picked up the pace and started winning, things started to turn around.”

Temple had a 4-7 record before its seven-game losing streak from Jan. 2-23. The Owls found their groove down the stretch, going 7-4 in its final 11 games of the regular season.

In that span, Temple shot 40.4 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. The Owls had a 37.7 shooting percentage prior to those 11 games. 

Cardoza credited the end-of-season success to improved shooting and following and listening to the game plan. 

“Honestly, our season, when we’re playing well, it’s because we’re making shots,” Cardoza said. “That’s just been who we are. We feed off of making shots instead of feeding off of getting stops.”

Even with Butts back in the lineup, Davis ended the season as the Owls’ leading scorer with 18.9 points per game. She also was the Owls’ top rebounder, averaging 9.2 rebounds per game.

Butts averaged 15.2 points per game and led the Owls in steals and assists. Butts is the only Owl set to leave the team, as senior forward Lena Niang will return as a graduate student. 

Temple focused on finishing games in the fourth quarter during summer workouts, sophomore guard and team captain Emani Mayo said. Still, the Owls struggled with closing games.

The Owls dropped seven games decided by seven or fewer points, including their one-point loss to Memphis in the conference tournament.

“We’re still losing close games, so we know that we can compete,” Mayo said. “We’ve just got to learn how to finish the game.” 

The key to an improvement next season will be team growth, particularly in listening and focus, things Cardoza did not see this season, she said.

“There might be individuals, but as a team, as a whole, there was not a lot of growth,” Cardoza said. “It was a lot of the same, and that’s why we didn’t get better.”

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