PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Temple University women’s basketball team is getting ready for its first NCAA Tournament game since 2011.
The Owls earned an at-large bid into this year’s field thanks to a 24-7 record. They advanced to the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament (losing to South Florida) and spent time this season nationally ranked (23rd in the Coaches Poll heading into the tournament).
Temple is the #7 seed in the Bridgeport Region and they will open up against the #10 seed Oregon in Durham, North Carolina on Saturday night.
The Owls had an incredibly impressive resume heading into the selection show on Monday, but when you don’t have an automatic bid, there is always that bit of lingering doubt as you wait for your name to be called.
“Definitely nerve wracking,” Temple head coach Tonya Cardoza tells KYW Newsradio. “I was just telling my players just to be ready for anything. Because we’ve sat in that situation before and thought we were getting in (and didn’t). But this year we were definitely confident because of the season that we had and being in the top 25, first time since I’ve been here, I think we were a little more confident than we were in the past.”
Listen to the entire interview with Temple head coach Tonya Cardoza:
The Owls bring a balanced attack to the table with four players averaging at least 13 points a game. Senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald leads the way at 17.3 ppg, followed by junior guards Alliya Butts (15.1 ppg), Donnaizha Fountain (14.1 ppg) and Tanaya Atkinson (13.1 ppg).
Cardoza wants this opportunity in the tournament to really special for her group.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she says. “I definitely want them to enjoy it because they put in the work throughout the year to get to this point. Don’t want any pressure, I just want them to go out and have fun and try to win as many games as we possibly can.”
Oregon brings a 20-13 record into the tournament. The Ducks advanced to the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament before losing to Stanford. Oregon is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004.
“They have a lot of guys that can shoot the three,” Cardoza says. “The three starting guards all shoot the three and shoot it well. Their two post players do a really good job. They have young guys, a young freshman and a young guard that can really score the basketball.”
Temple and Oregon will be meeting for just the second time ever. The Owls won the other match-up, 51-46, back in 2005.
The winner of this game will play the winner of Duke and Hampton on Monday.
Saturday’s Temple game begins at 6:30pm.