The spectrum is obvious at the point guard position when Temple and St. Joe’s meet.
Temple’s Stacey Smalls, because of her youth and inexperience, is at the bottom; St. Joe’s fifth-year senior Angela Zampella is well advanced and Temple coach Dawn Staley is at the top; high, high, high above all the rest.
In Temple’s 60-55 win over St. Joe’s earlier this month, Zampella surpassed Staley for 24th place all-time in assists in NCAA history. Staley had 729 assists in her career at Virginia.
Zampella has 196 assists this season averaging 8.5 a game. She finished last season second in the nation dishing out 7.77 assists a game.
“She’s a great player,” Staley said of Zampella after the Owls’ first win over St. Joe’s. “She has great court vision. We couldn’t do some things out there because she sees the court so well. My hat goes off to her I hope she can move up even quicker before her career ends.”
Temple travels to St. Joe’s on Monday night for an Atlantic 10 and Big 5 contest against the Hawks. If Temple wins they’ll share the Big 5 title with St. Joe’s and Villanova.
Smalls has learned from the best this season and is leading Temple to its best record in ten years. They are (record) going into Monday’s game.
“She’s taught me a lot,” Smalls said of Staley. “She’s been teaching me how to become a better point guard because she’s done it all.”
Smalls leads the team in scoring and assists. She has 260 points and 78 assists this season.
“I think she’s doing a great job,” Zampella said of her counterpart. “She’s the leader out there. The team will go with her.”
Zampella knows a little something about team leadership.
After every stoppage and whistle at a St. Joe’s game, the Hawks huddle together, like clockwork, with Zampella as their leader.
“It’s a tradition and something we take pride in,” she said.
The trip to Hawk Hill will also be a return for Staley. When she’s not coaching the Owls she’s playing in the WNBA and she works out at St. Joe’s gym.
“It was exciting to have her back in Philly. I think she does a lot for women’s basketball,” Zampella said. “When she was at Virginia she was the best player (in the country) She’s someone you look up to.
“I go out and play hard and I get my teammates to play hard. I just want to play like myself. If people compare the two of us that’s a great compliment.”
The word letdown was created to describe Temple’s loss on Tuesday night.
Temple traveled to A-10 bottom feeder Rhode Island and dropped a 70-66 overtime decision. The loss came after a weekend of big wins over George Washington and St. Bonaventure.
“We played bad,” said Ieesha Turnage.
The Rams (10-14, 3-9 A-10) only dress seven players but four of them scored in double figures. Yatar Kuyateh led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Smalls answered with 19 for Temple and Natalia Isaac scored 14. Athena Christoforakis added 15 rebounds but Temple only shot 27 percent from the field in the second half.
Rhode Island shot 42 percent and outscored Temple 9-5 in overtime.
The Owls travel to New York to play Fordham this Friday night.
Redshirt freshman Christine Cruz is day-to-day with a foot injury. X-ray’s for a possible stress fracture came up negative but Cruz is still wearing a walking boot.
Cruz’s last game was on Jan. 28 in a loss to George Washington.
Her offensive production hasn’t been where it needs to be all season but she is needed defensively. She leads to team in steals with almost three a game.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Natalia Isaac has been at Temple for four years but only now is she making her presence felt.
The senior has scored 56 points in the past three games including 22 against George Washington, 20 against St. Bonaventure and 14 against Rhode Island.
Her 14-of-14 free throw shooting won the GW game while five clutch three-pointers against the Bonnie’s sealed that win.