Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Tonya Cardoza is concerned. Her Temple squad is having trouble putting the ball in the bucket — but the problems lie deeper than that, and the Owls’ 14th-year coach is worried much more about the cause than the effect.
“My concern is that we’re not making shots, but we’re not really getting in the gym and working on it, so that’s an issue,” she said. “If you look at the stats, guys are not making shots, but I don’t see guys in the gym really working on, like, ‘I need to step up and make shots,’ and living in the gym, so that’s concerning for me.
Temple coach Tonya Cardoza (above) had some choice words for her team after an 18-point loss to Princeton Tuesday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“If I’m one of them [...] it’s about how can I help? I can help by getting myself in the gym and working on it.”
Cardoza’s frustrations were bubbling up after her Owls put up a clunker on the offensive end of the court in a 59-41 loss to Princeton at McGonigle Hall on Tuesday night. Temple missed its first 12 shots and finished 15-of-62 (24.2%) from the floor, the second time in three games Temple made less than 30% of its shots. The struggles extended to the 3-point arc, where they were 3-of-20 (15.0%).
That’s been the theme of a season that’s seen Temple shoot just 35.3% overall and 20.2% from 3-point range (335th nationally per HerHoopStats), failing to surpass the 60-point mark in three of five games out of the gate. And that’s factoring in the solid 49.1% they shot in the season opener against St. Francis (Pa.), where they were 3-of-10 from the 3-point arc.
Since then, it’s been far too many missed shots, including an 0-for-11 showing from deep against Florida Gulf Coast and a 5-for-29 (17.2%) mark from 3-point arc against St. John’s (N.Y.).
“It’s going to be hard to win basketball games when you shoot 24% from the floor, 15% from the 3-point line,” Cardoza said. “You’re not going to win any games doing that.
“We’ve got to find ways to put the ball in the hole. You hold a team to 59, you’ve got to find ways to score.”
Against the Tigers, the Owls (2-3) came out cold, then starting forcing things early as Princeton jumped out to a 15-0 lead. There were forced layups against double-teams, rushed jumpers, and some frantic fast-break opportunities that resulted in one of 12 turnovers; even though Temple actually forced more turnovers (16), Princeton held a 20-10 advantage in points off turnovers as well as a 49-34 advantage on the glass.
Temple actually clawed its way back, getting within 11 points at halftime and as close as two on a 3-pointer by Jaylnn Holmes midway through the third quarter, but the effort fell short there.
Princeton used an 11-2 run to create separation again, then slammed the door shut with a 16-0 run that spanned most of the fourth quarter. It was the 11th straight road win for the Tigers (4-1), who went 29-1 two seasons ago under then-first-year head coach Carla Berube and then sat out 2020-21 along with the rest of the Ivy League. They already dispatched Villanova by a nearly-identical 59-42 score to open the season, and also have a 20-point win at Delaware under their belts.
Jasha Clinton (above) has yet to display the scoring touch she showed last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Senior forward Mia Davis, who had 11 points (on 4-12 shooting) against Princeton, has been Temple’s top contributor as expected, averaging 16.8 ppg and 8.0 rpg while making 51.5% of her shots. Alexa Williamson has also generally been efficient, averaging 11.1 ppg on 45.1% from the floor.
On the opposite end is second-year freshman Jasha Clinton. The 5-8 guard and Big 5 Rookie of the Year averaged 14.4 ppg last year, making 37.3% of her shots and 32.6% of her 3-pointers, but hasn’t found her scoring touch yet this season. After scoring four points against Princeton on 1-11 shooting (0-5 3PT), she’s averaging 4.3 ppg on 5-of-35 (14.3%) shooting, and hasn’t yet scored in double digits.
“She’s trying too hard,” Cardoza said. “If you watch you can see she’s pressing, trying too hard, and we can’t have her trying too hard, we need her to make the extra pass and let the game come to her.
“Right now, not just Jasha, but other guys as well, we’re trying too hard to go score instead of trying really hard to get the best shot possible.
“Sometimes we play too fast for ourselves and we have tunnel vision, we don’t see anything,” she added later. “We try to hurry up and make a 20-point play instead of just settling down.”
Cardoza’s got four days to try to figure out some cures to her team’s woes, with a Big 5 game at Villanova looming on Saturday. The Wildcats (2-2, 2-0) have won their last two, both Big 5 contests, despite playing without star junior Maddy Siegrist, out with a hand/wrist injury.
Whether Siegrist plays or not isn’t first and foremost on Cardoza’s mind, with Villanova forwards Lior Garzon and Brianna Herlihy plus guards Brooke Mullin and freshman Lucy Olsen among others give the Wildcats enough firepower to be plenty dangerous.
“Right now, I’m more concerned about us and what it is that we’re doing,” she said. “We’re not the team that I saw this summer, there’s some things we have to figure out about ourselves, right now we’re not the team that I thought we were two months ago.”