#22 Villanova Wildcats (8-0) vs. Temple Owls (7-2)
When: Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 2 p.m.
Where: Liacouras Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
Temple’s Previous Season’s Record: 24-8, Upset by Oregon in NCAA tournament opener
Key Players for Temple: #22 Tanaya Atkinston (6-0) Sr., G; #25 Mia Davis (6-0) Fr., F; #12 Emani Mayo (5-8) Fr., G
The undefeated Wildcats, No. 22 in the country, are heading to Temple this Sunday to face off against Temple. Despite a season opening loss to Rutgers, and a blowout at the hands of Ole Miss, the Temple women have had a strong start to their season. In fact, the best start to a season since 2009-10. That team continued onto the tournament, losing to UConn in the second round.
While the Owls are still led by senior guard Tanaya Atkinson, they are mostly a young team. Four of the top six contributors on the roster are freshmen. The Temple women have started out remarkably well for what could be considered a rebuilding year.
Last year Atkinson lead the American Athletic Conference— and finished seventh in the country— in offensive rebounds (141), and recorded her career best scoring game with 30 points against Cincinnati. So far this season she’s continued to be a rebounding machine with 11.0 boards per game, and averages an insane 23.8 points to start off this year. In the previous game against Hampton, Atkinson clenched her eighth double-double of the season, with 25 points and 10 rebounds. If there’s one player to watch, its Atkinson. She is a guard/forward combo that plays a lot inside, but isn’t restricted to the paint. The ball will be in her hands a lot.
Aside from Atkinson, she’s got a support cast of a few freshmen that are already making quite the splash at this level. Emani Mayo is making a name for herself in her debut season. She scored 19 points (her best showing so far) in the Owls last game against Hampton, and 13 against Harvard the game before. She's earned herself the number two spot on the team after only nine games. If she keeps it up, Mayo will be a name you hear a lot for the next four years. Then there’s forward Mia Davis another inside presence that’s averaging almost a double-double—10.1 points and 9.8 boards.
Senior Khadijah Berger and freshman Desiree Oliver lead the perimeter game for the Owls. They’re a bit inconsistent, but they’re the only ones who can really threaten from deep. Together, they combine for 21-of-65 (32.3 percent) from long range.
For such a young team, they’ve been playing well together. Against Hampton they got assists on 19 of 24 baskets. However, they are a bit reckless with the ball, as they showed against Hampton, they turned the ball over 35 times.
The matchup between the Wildcats and Owls is shaping up to be a clash between a veteran team, and a developing one. The two teams are almost as even as it gets when it comes to shooting, Villanova averages 42 percent, while Temple hovers at 41 percent. While the ‘Cats are 30 percent at the three, the Owls are holding 29 percent.
Villanova has a clear advantage in depth, a testament to their time playing together. For the Wildcats, Adrianna Hahn and Kelly Jekot average 13 points a game, followed by reliable scorers Mary Gedaka, Alex Louin, Bridget Herlihy and Jannah Tucker. While Davis and Mayo have been scoring fro the Owls, the team still relies heavily on Atkinson.
The Villanova women have dominated their opponents this season, and are headed into the Big Five matchup with an all time record of 113-38, the most victories by any Big Five women’s program.
Expect that winning trend to continue and a tough defensive effort on Atkinson.