Temple defeated James Madison, 65-53, last Sunday. The Owls face Connecticut tonight.
NORFOLK, Va. – By defeating James Madison, 65-53, last Sunday night, senior guard LaKeisha Eaddy and the women’s basketball team helped Temple coach Tonya Cardoza earn her first NCAA Tournament win while simultaneously putting the Owls into the Round of 32 for the first time since 2007.
After Temple started the game on a 17-6 run, the Dukes responded with a 13-6 run of their own to close the half trailing, 23-19. The initial run by Temple stayed with the Dukes for the entire game, JMU coach Kenny Brooks said.
“We didn’t adjust to the style of the game,” Brooks said. “We allowed Temple to get out to a very sizable lead, which we felt like we were trying to dig ourselves out of for the rest of the basketball game.”
The Owls relied heavily on defense in their win, limiting JMU junior guard Dawn Evans to 18 points on a mere 30 percent shooting. Evans, who came into the game third in the nation in scoring at 24.8 points per game, shot 6-of-20 from the field, including 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. The sheer size of Temple’s defenders made it hard for Evans to get a shot off, Brooks said.
“We knew that they were a good, defensive team,” Brooks said. “They’re extremely long. They’re extremely long, and they’re extremely physical. They did a really good job at hedging in on Dawn, pretty much to the point where they were double-teaming her. Usually, she’s able to slip some passes through, but their length made it extremely difficult.”
“It was a team effort,” Cardoza added. “All 12 guys had to do a good job of guarding [Evans]. To be honest, not only did [Eaddy] do a good job, but I thought our post players did too. We thought it was really important for our post players to step up and make themselves big. That was probably more important than [Eaddy] sitting down there and guarding. Every single post player shored themselves in and made it difficult for her to shoot coming off screens.”
The Owls forced 17 turnovers in the win, including 10 off of steals. Eaddy led the way with six steals, further increasing her lead as Temple’s all-time steals leader.
Offensively, the Owls relied on a balanced attack from Eaddy, sophomore forward Kristen McCarthy and junior guard Shaqwedia Wallace to get the job done. Eaddy and McCarthy both scored 15 points each, while Wallace led all scorers with 21 points.
The Owls will now face Connecticut, the school where Cardoza served as an assistant coach for 14 years before coming to North Broad Street.
The Huskies are led by senior center Tina Charles, the Big East Conference Player of the Year, and junior forward Maya Moore. Charles, a 6-foot-4-inch Jamaica, N.Y., native, leads the team with 18.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game on 63.7 percent shooting from the field. Moore has averaged 17.9 points per game while pulling down 8.3 rebounds a game.
Connecticut defeated Southern University, 95-39, last Sunday in the opening round of the Tournament. Charles and Moore combined for 43 points despite sitting out the majority of the second half. The Huskies as a whole shot 61.5 percent from the field, including 56.2 percent from 3-point range.
Connecticut has won 73 straight games, which surpasses its own program record of 70. Cardoza said she does not have any secrets on how to beat the Huskies, despite her connection to the program.
“I don’t know any of their tricks,” Cardoza said. “To be honest, I haven’t watched them a lot this year. Yeah, I know they have a [winning] streak, but if you asked me what the number was, I don’t know.”
From her experience at UConn, Cardoza has seen firsthand how the Huskies’ reputation helps them on the court. However, that won’t be an issue for her squad, she said.
“A lot of times, just the name on the front of the jersey would put them up 14 points without the game really starting because people were so intimidated by them,” Cardoza said. “To be honest, this is the story that everybody wanted, so our players are already prepared for it. I don’t have to give them anything to try to get them going. This is what everybody wants, so these guys are excited about it.”
Few experts expect the Owls, or any team for that matter, to stop Connecticut in its pursuit of a second straight National Championship. Because of the dominance the Huskies have displayed, Temple is in the perfect situation, Cardoza said.
“This is one of the best teams ever, not just the No. 1 team in the country right now, but one of the best teams ever,” Cardoza said. “This is something that [the team] will want to go out and enjoy. There’s no reason to be nervous because we don’t have anything to lose.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Ted Constance Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. The game will be aired nationally on ESPN2.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.