Loyola women’s basketball enters the NAIA Division I Women’s Championships with size on its side.
Forward Meghan Temple has transformed from a role player, backing up fellow Houston native Jasmine Brewer one season ago, to Loyola’s second-leading scorer, averaging 11.3 points per game.
Temple, a sophomore, also leads the No. 2 seed Wolf Pack in rebounding (9.6) and is shooting 54 percent from the field — also a team best — heading into Wednesday’s first round of NAIA women’s nationals against No. 7 seed Great Falls (Montana) at 10:15 a.m.
Her increased opportunities and confidence have placed Loyola in the NAIA nationals for the second time in three years and the sixth time overall.
Last season, the Wolfpack reached the NAIA quarterfinals. As a No. 7 seed, the Wolf Pack upset No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 3 seed Our Lady of the Lake in the first two rounds of nationals before losing 65-63 to John Brown.
The combination of Temple in the post, along with scoring point guard Janeicia Neely and perimeter scorer Megan Whittaker, gives Loyola a scoring trio that has the ability to score from anywhere on the court.
“And when you can shoot the ball well, people have to make a decision about what you’re going to give up,” said Loyola coach Kellie Kennedy.
Temple’s rebounding limits opponents to one-shot possessions while offering second-chance opportunities for her own offense.
Her impact can be summed up with in games this season.
The Wolfpack (28-3) lost twice during the regular season to Bethel, the fifth-ranked team in the final NAIA Division I top 25 poll (Loyola was ranked seventh). Then in the Southern States Athletic Conference Conference tournament, Loyola thrashed Bethel 81-59 thanks to its ability to enjoy a closer rebounding margin against Bethel. The 6-foot-2 Temple collected a game-high 13 rebounds.
“Rebounding — we stressed that going into the conference tournament, and it’s a really big reason why we beat Bethel,” Temple said. “Because the last time we played them at home (and lost), they outrebounded us by 30.”
Against Bethel, Kennedy said Temple “was just a force — tough to defend when we were able to get the ball inside to her. I felt like we put three solid performances back to back,” Kennedy said. That’s not always easy to do.”