The Owls will try to recover after going 0-3 versus the Top 25.
While the rest of the student body was enjoying its winter break, sophomore forward Kristen McCarthy and the women’s basketball team were facing three ranked teams and wrapping up the majority of their nonconference schedule.
The Cherry and White started off the break well, winning their first three games against Hampton, Ohio and Kent State. With those three wins, Temple had won nine of its first 10 games, the program’s best start since 1981, when the Owls started off 13-1.
During those three wins, the Owls relied heavily on senior forward Jasmine Stone in the paint. Stone, a
6-foot-3-inch Detroit native, averaged 12.3 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks per game during the stretch.
Then came cross-town rival Villanova.
After failing to score fewer than 54 points in any game up until that point, the Owls stumbled against the Wildcats. They shot 19 percent from the field and made only one of their 3-point attempts. The Temple post players were especially ineffective, as Stone and junior forward Marli Bennett combined to shoot one-for-14 from the field. In the end, the Wildcats cruised to a 44-32 victory.
Following the thrashing, the Owls had an easy victory against Akron before facing the first of their three consecutive ranked opponents, No. 8 Duke.
The Owls played the Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse tough, outshooting the Blue Devils 47.6 percent to 33.9 percent. Unfortunately for Temple, Duke out-rebounded the Owls, 32-20, which gave them enough second chances to win, 70-62. McCarthy led the way for the Owls with 16 points, while freshman center Victoria Macaulay scored a career-high 10 points off the bench.
The Cherry and White then traveled to Tallahassee to play No. 12 Florida State. After trailing, 35-27, at halftime, the Owls rallied back in the second half. A Macaulay jumper put the Owls ahead, 46-44, with slightly fewer than 11 minutes left to play in the game. The Seminoles proved to be too much for the Owls, however, as they fought back to win handedly, 77-64.
Before the Cherry and White faced Atlantic Ten Conference rival Xavier in their conference opener, senior guard and team captain LaKeisha Eaddy broke her nose and suffered a concussion in practice.
With Eaddy out, the Owls had to look for other scoring options. McCarthy scored a career-high 28 points, while sophomore guard BJ Williams stepped into Eaddy’s starting spot and scored 12 points. The Owls simply could not defend Xavier from beyond the arc, however, as the Musketeers shot 52.9 percent from 3-point range en route to an 82-69 victory.
Despite the three consecutive losses, the Owls played well throughout the stretch, coach Tonya Cardoza said.
“Overall, our effort has been good the last two weeks,” Cardoza said. “We came out dealing with a great deal of intensity and passion for the game.”
On top of that, facing three of the best teams in the nation set the Owls up well for their conference schedule, Williams added.
“After the three games that we just played and the level of the competition we played against, we can obviously play against anybody,” Williams said. “We’re trying to step on the gas and roll through this A-10 with passion and heart and determination. We’re trying to win every single game we play from here on in.”
The Owls have won two straight conference games since the Xavier game, beating Fordham, 67-34, and Saint Joseph’s, 58-55, in overtime. Eaddy returned for the victory versus the Hawks. She contributed 17 points and recorded four steals. Those steals moved her into sixth place on Temple’s all-time list with 213.
Heading into the heart of conference play, the Owls have to feel good about their chances. The hardest part of their schedule is behind them, and they only face two teams with winning records in their next eight games. The hardest part of the Temple schedule will come toward the end of February, when the Owls face Duquesne and Dayton in back-to-back games.
The Cherry and White are on the road tonight against Rhode Island before returning home to play Penn Saturday at McGonigle Hall. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.