Women try for second winning season

The Temple women’s basketball team is entering this season after posting their first winning record (19-11, 11-5) in over a decade. Coach Dawn Staley will start this season with one year under her belt and

The Temple women’s basketball team is entering this season after posting their first winning record (19-11, 11-5) in over a decade.

Coach Dawn Staley will start this season with one year under her belt and a new face on the bench in former UNC-Charlotte Coach Ed Baldwin, who will replace Shawn Campbell as Staley’s top assistant.

The team will face high expectations after last year’s campaign that showed the Owls would return hungry, experienced, and most importantly, conditioned for the long season ahead.

The team will look for leadership on and off the court in junior point guard Stacey Smalls, senior forward Ieesha Turnage, and senior guard Melissa Dunne, the Owls’ tri-captains.

Smalls led the team in scoring last season with 11.2 points and 3.5 assists per game. She was also named to the All Atlantic-10 Conference second team and named the A-10’s Most Improved Player.

“She’s our leader on the basketball court and statistically,” Staley said. “She’s the point guard and she has a big role for us. I look for her to improve on our short game so she can hit the three, go to the hole and, if not, use the pull-up jumper.”

7 Games to Watch
Dec. 1 Villanova – Temple lost a thriller to Villanova 60-55 at the igloo-shaped Pavillion last year. The win was coach Harry Perretta’s 400th; Dawn Staley joked that she hopes Peretta will be around for her 400th. Maybe not, but this game could be a win somewhere in the 20-range for Staley…Dec. 9 Vanderbilt – Temple hung with the Commodores last season but fell short, 70-51. The game should be a test of Temple’s improvement since last season…Dec. 16 at Rutgers – Rutgers is one of the most constant teams in women’s college basketball. See if Staley’s Owls can stay with Hall of Famer Vivian Stringer’s Scarlet Knights…Dec. 30-31 Temple Classic – On the downside, Temple doesn’t get to travel to sunny hotspots for New Year’s tournament games. On the upside, Temple finally gets its own holiday tournament. Maryland-Eastern Shore, Mississippi and Farleigh Dickinson compete…Jan. 18 at George Washington – The Colonials boast one of the top returning teams in the Atlantic 10 They have height, shooting and a great coach. Minus the height, Temple can match GW…Feb. 5 Saint Joseph’s – With the A-10 going back to two divisions, Temple will only play the Hawks once this season. The winner may come out as the top team in the East…Feb. 10 at Xavier – Temple may finally be on Xavier’s level this season. The Musketeers lost its top three players, including its two top inside players. Temple no longer has to worry about two excellent 6-foot-4 players guarding the basket.

Smalls’ short game is a compliment to her speed and ability to start plays on the transition, relying on her teammates to get down the court.

Senior forward Athena Christoforakis is one of the team’s most balanced players, averaging 10.8 points and 8.4 boards to lead the team in rebounding. She will be playing after an off-season foot surgery.

The A-10 has returned to a two-division conference. Temple will belong to the East Division with Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, St. Bonanventure and St. Joseph’s. The Owls will be undersized against most of its opponents and will need a team effort to win a conference championship.

“We’re trying to be a transition team, but also a disciplined team when teams get in the half-court set or get back on us,” Staley said. “We have to create easy buckets and the best way to do that is to play pressure defense, trapping full court, and forcing our opponents to make mistakes.”

Senior center Lisa Jakubowicz will have to stay in the game and stay on the boards to improve on her 6.7 rebounds per game. Jakubowicz averaged 1.8 steals a contest and shot 66 percent from the line last season.

“We need her to stay in the game,” Staley said. “She can’t pick up cheap fouls and sit for a half. She understands that she needs to be out on the basketball court for us to be successful and she can’t do that when she picks up two fouls in the first half.”

For the Owls to be successful they will need plenty of role players in junior Regan Apo, Natalia Isaac and Christine Cruz is suffering from a foot injury after being named to the A-10 All Rookie team.

Freshmen Heather Jones, Ari Moore, Rachel Marcus and Cynthia Jordan will receive minutes depending on their transition to the up tempo style of play.

The team will strive off of constant defensive pressure to get the fast break going.

Besides the X’s and O’s, for the Owls to be successful in a tight conference, win the big games, and be a contender, Staley said the team needs to be “relentless.”

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