Sunday, 2 p.m.
Under coach Nikki Caldwell’s watch, there is no such thing as a dull practice, not even on the eve of Thanksgiving.
The beads of sweat dripping down senior forward Christina Nzekwe’s forehead at the conclusion of practice on Wednesday indicated as much.
“She’s pushing us,” Nzekwe said of her coach. “With every game, there’s always work that we need to improve on. She grades us on certain things, and if we get a failing grade, we know we have to improve on that.”
Indeed, there’s a reason why the drills and scrimmages are so intense. After all, it’s not as if the Bruins (4-0) have gotten off to their best start since the 1986-1987 season without making the necessary efforts.
“Coach Nikki always tells us practice is a direct correlation of the game, so we have to do things perfectly in practice,” junior guard Rebekah Gardner said. “If we work hard and do everything perfect in practice, when the game comes everything will work out.”
The No. 13 Bruins will continue to pursue that perfection on Sunday when they take on Temple (2-2) at Pauley Pavilion.
And if anything, last week’s results were an impressive indicator that the team is in form and up for the challenge. After hammering out an upset win on the road Thursday against then-No. 12 Notre Dame in double overtime, the Bruins avoided a letdown in their next game, returning home to nab a sound win over UC Davis three days later.
“(Thursday’s game) put us in a position where we can learn a lot,” Caldwell said. “We can learn a lot of what we need to do late in the game, and we also learned that we have playmakers on our team who, when the time was crunch, made big plays for us.
“This team has a resilience about itself, and I’m glad we were able to experience early on what it’s going to feel like going into hostile environments and playing very good basketball teams on the road.”
This weekend’s opponent is no slouch, either. Temple has two players who average more than 14 points per game in guards Shey Peddy and Qwedia Wallace, and is building upon last season’s 25-9 record as well as a seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Temple is very quick and athletic,” Caldwell said. “They’ve got versatility in their guard play where they can shoot the three, penetrate and are good in transition “¦ so close-outs and help-defense are going to be key, but it’s still going to go back to ‘What do we do best?’ and ‘Are we going to do that for 40 minutes?‘”
With Thursday just around the corner, Caldwell took the time to share some of her favorites about the Thanksgiving festivities.
“I love all the food that you get to eat, not just the turkey,” she said. “I’m a big dressing person; I like honey-baked ham, and I’m a dressing person. And then there are the desserts; this is the one time when I can’t wait to eat apple pie.”
As for her players, Caldwell dismissed any concern regarding an over-consumption of turkey.
“No, I’m not worried about them; they can eat because I’ll have them run it off when they come back,” she said heartily.