NEW YORK (AP) — After nearly making the Top 25 a few times during her coaching career at Temple, Tonya Cardoza has the Owls ranked for the first time in 11 years.
Temple entered The Associated Press women’s basketball poll on Monday at No. 23. It’s the team’s first appearance since March 13, 2006.
“There have been a few seasons where we’ve had some pretty good teams, flirting with getting into the Top 25,” said Cardoza, who took over at the school in 2008. “We never closed the deal that particular week. This year, no one paid attention to it, and it just so happened we eased our way in there.”
While being ranked has never been at the forefront of Cardoza’s mind, the attention it brings to her team makes her proud.
“It’s great because you’re being recognized and others are appreciating your team and what they are doing,” she said. “When people are talking about you and bringing attention to Temple, that’s a great thing.”
At least Cardoza doesn’t have to worry about the ranking generating any added incentive for Temple’s next opponent: The Owls face No. 1 UConn on Wednesday.
The Huskies remained the top team in the poll, receiving all 33 votes from the national media panel. They survived one of the stiffest tests during their 101-game winning streak, barely beating Tulane by three points on Saturday.
Cardoza knows she’ll see UConn’s best effort on Wednesday. Cardoza, a former assistant for the Huskies, watched their game against Tulane and noticed that the Green Wave played hard from the start.
“It had everything to do with Tulane competing against them, making shots, making big plays,” Cardoza said. “You know it was UConn’s first time playing without Kia Nurse, and she’s a big part of everything they do — their leader. Guys didn’t make shots they normally make (for UConn).”
Temple (21-5) lost to UConn at home by 28 points on Feb. 1, but the Owls did outscore the Huskies in the second half.
The Huskies were followed in the poll by Maryland, Mississippi State, Baylor and Notre Dame.
While those five teams didn’t lose this past week, it was a rough one for other ranked teams. A dozen Top 25 teams suffered at least one loss over the past week, including South Florida, which Temple beat on Sunday for its first road true victory over a ranked team in 11 years. That victory further cemented the Owls’ NCAA Tournament resume.
“Getting to the tournament was the biggest goal of our team,” Cardoza said. “Winning the Big Five, it’s something our seniors hadn’t won, that was another thing.”
South Florida, Texas A&M and Kansas State all fell out of the poll while Kentucky entered at No. 22 and Missouri at 24.
The Tigers beat then-No. 6 South Carolina by two points on Sunday.
The Gamecocks fell two spots to seventh, while Texas rose to No. 6. Florida State and Stanford were tied for eighth in the poll and Oregon State rounded out the top 10.