With the Atlantic Ten Conference regular season clash between No. 6 Xavier and Temple over in a loss for the Owls, it’s time to look ahead to the conference tournament.
The Musketeers established themselves as the best team in the A-10 for now, after overpowering the Owls in a 73-66 victory at the Liacouras Center on Sunday. But the Owls have revenge on their minds already.
“I think when we see them next time, they’ll know that we mean business,” junior guard Shey Peddy said.
“We let an opportunity slip away from us,” coach Tonya Cardoza added. “If we’re fortunate enough to get to that point next week [and] if we’re both fortunate enough to get to that point, hopefully the mistakes that we made today, we don’t make those mistakes.”
The Owls head into the A-10 Championship as the No. 2 seed, earning a first-round bye. At 13-1 in the conference, it is clear Temple is a contender for the title. But the Owls will have to take down several teams if they want a potential rematch against the Musketeers in the A-10 Championship.
“I think that the tournament is really wide open,” Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said. “When you think about it, we’ve got a lot of outstanding teams in our league. I think we’re going to be in the NCAA tournament, and Temple’s going to be in the NCAA tournament. There’s some other teams that are going to be really, really hungry to kind of fight their way in.”
After Xavier and Temple, the A-10 is a blur. Five teams sit at 9-5 in the conference, including Duquesne, Charlotte, St. Bonaventure, Dayton and Richmond. St. Joseph’s is 8-6 in the conference – the last team with a record over .500 during conference play.
“When you look at Charlotte, Dayton, Richmond and Duquesne, I think they’re all very close to being on the bubble [for the NCAA tournament],” McGuff said. “So it will be really, really competitive in Lowell, [Mass.].”
The Owls have taken down all of these teams but will have to overcome the obvious target on their backs against teams looking for revenge. St. Joe’s gave Temple trouble in both its losses this season; Temple barely overcame Charlotte with a last-second, 60-57 victory.
A big difference for Temple will be playing at a neutral site in Lowell, Mass. The Owls had home-court advantages in big wins over Richmond and Dayton this season. The atmosphere in the Tsongas Center will be completely different.
As always, the Owls will have to rely on the leadership and versatility of their Big 3 of Peddy, senior guard Qwedia Wallace and junior forward Kristen McCarthy. Peddy and Wallace gave the Musketeers fits in their loss, scoring 24 and 22 points respectively.
It was the first time all season two Owls scored at least 20 points in a game. McCarthy was a big factor as well, recording a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Against teams with winning records in the A-10, Peddy is averaging 15.5 points a game. Wallace and McCarthy are averaging 10.9 and 13.8 points per game, respectively. They will have to continue that production to force a potential rematch against Xavier.
“[Peddy and Wallace] don’t back down from a challenge and both of these guys are competitors, and they want to win. They know the bulk of the offense falls on their shoulders, so they’re never going to shy away,” Cardoza said. “They’re going to continue to attack.”
But this will force the Owls to make a decision. Temple was outscored, 34-26, in the paint against Xavier.
Both teams were jawing at each other on Sunday, and the emotions will be even higher if they see each other in the finals.
“They’re going to want to try to beat us again, and we’re going to have the momentum that ‘We could have had y’all,’ and we’re going to try to go at them,” Peddy said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be a lot of backtalk. I think now we have a level of mutual respect for each other.”
“Because we didn’t get [this win], it hurts,” Wallace added. “We know that we just have to go out and give our best effort and try to get to the same point again in the tournament.”
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com.