The women’s basketball team’s last 10 games have been a tumultuous battle, complete with eight losses and marred by inconsistency. By the end of the stretch, the Owls’ two most reliable veterans had been benched.
Temple is 2-8 since upsetting Syracuse on Dec. 2, a stretch that includes a deflating 0-6 road trip and a 20-point loss to Duquesne on Sunday, Jan. 20, in which senior center Victoria Macaulay and redshirt-junior Natasha Thames played a combined 25 minutes.
The Owls returned home from the road swing on Jan. 7, to beat Western Michigan, winning their first game in more than a month. Macaulay shot 11-of-19 from the floor en route to 22 points and six rebounds. Freshman guard Erica Covile chipped in a career high 13 points.
“We needed a win like [beating Western Michigan] for our confidence and for our sanity,” coach Tonya Cardoza said.
Temple snapped its losing streak just in time for the Atlantic 10 Conference opener against St. Bonaventure on Jan. 13, a special game for Cardoza. The Owls knocked off the Bonnies 67-59 to win back-to-back games for the first time all season, and Cardoza captured her 100th career win in the process.
Macaulay led Temple in the win over St. Bonaventure with her seventh double-double of the season, recording 23 points and 12 rebounds. With consecutive strong performances under her belt, Macaulay admitted the previous road trip was a struggle for her.
“I realized that rushing my shots wasn’t doing anything to help my team,” Macaulay said. “For me to be patient tonight and not really worry as much about scoring got me really focused on the whole game plan.”
Perhaps lost in the limelight of Cardoza’s milestone is the recent progress of sophomore point guard Tyonna Williams. Williams, who averaged almost five turnovers per game during the six-game road trip, has a combined five turnovers in her last four games. Against Western Michigan, she delivered 12 assists to go along with no turnovers.
“[The sixth-straight loss against Howard] was a big eye-opener for me,” Williams said. “I had to look in the mirror and figure out what I was doing wrong.”
Even with Williams’ emergence as a viable point guard, the team’s success was short-lived. The Owls went on to drop their next two games, first losing 53-51 to VCU in the A-10 home opener on Jan. 16, in which Macaulay narrowly missed a put-back to tie the game in its closing seconds.
Sophomore guard Rateska Brown led the way with a career high 22 points in the Owls’ losing effort. Temple shot 29 percent from the floor en route to its seventh loss in nine games.
“That was a tough one to swallow,” Cardoza said. “I felt like right from the start we were trying to play catch-up and we really didn’t get a lot of production from the guys.”
A blowout loss to Duquesne on Jan. 20 may have marked the low-point of the season for the Owls, as Cardoza benched Macaulay and Thames due to lackluster performances. Macaulay, who was just two games removed from A-10 Player of the Week honors, played six minutes before being lifted while Thames, who grabbed 12 rebounds against Western Michigan just as recently, played 19 minutes.
Relied upon to mentor and lead by example for the plethora of young talent on the team, Cardoza said Macaulay and Thames simply failed to fulfill their duties.
“[Macaulay and Thames] have been here the longest,” Cardoza said. “If we’re yelling at our younger guys and [Macaulay and Thames] aren’t doing what we ask, then it’s not fair. If we’re going to lose then we’re going to lose with the younger guys that at least don’t know any better.”
With two of its top performers being made unavailable, Temple shot 31 percent from the floor, including 2-of-15 from three-point range, and committed 25 turnovers in a 65-45 loss to the Dukes.
The Owls (7-10) are on track to finish with their first losing season since 2002. If there’s any positives to take from the recent 2-8 stretch, Cardoza hopes it’s that the Owls learn from the debacle against Duquesne.
“Hopefully it just sends a message,” Cardoza said. “If you’re not going to do the things we ask, and you’re capable of doing those things but you choose not to, then you’re not going to play.”
Tyler Sablich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TySablich.