PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/15/2017 – The Temple Owls got back on a national ranking perch. The #25 Owls celebrated by establishing control early in a 66 – 52 win over the SMU Mustangs at McGonigle Hall. A national ranking has meaning for the team and the program, but there is more to do.
“It means a lot because that’s what we have been waiting for,” said Temple guard Feyonda Fitzgerald. “It doesn’t stop here. We are going to make sure that we do what we have to do which is get better each and every day as a team.”
The Cherry and White used speed and quickness especially on the defensive end of the floor in establishing the early lead. In the first half the Owls had a 14 – 2 edge in fast break points and had a 7 – 0 edge in points off 12 Mustangs turnovers. Temple stole the ball 6 times in the opening twenty minutes.
“I thought we got off to a good start holding them to 4 points in the opening quarter,” said Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza. “Being able to get out in transition was key for us. It was a good team win.”
After one period the Cherry and White had a 19 – 4 lead holding SMU to 2 of 15 shooting and forced 5 turnovers. The Mustangs did not get their initial score until there was 2:25 to play in the quarter. The lead would stretch to 30 – 10 with just over four and a half minutes to play until halftime.
“That’s how we get our energy getting out in transition, and everybody is touching the basketball,” Cardoza said. “We thrive off of that. When we aren’t doing that we get a little stagnant.”
In the second half the Owls did not keep up that pace, which is difficult to do. SMU started to find their stride winning the second half 33 – 30, but would come no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Forward Donnaizha Fountain scored a game-high 19 points and took down 12 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season. Fellow front court mate Ruth Sherrill has 13 rebounds, 5 on the offensive end.
On offense Fitzgerald filled the stat sheet with 17 points, 6 assists, 5 steals, and committed just 1 turnover. The senior guard was 7 of 14 from the floor.
Tanaya Atkinson also broke double figures scoring 12 points while adding 7 rebounds.
Dai’ja Thomas led three Mustangs in double figures scoring with 18 points, a carer-high as she converted 7 of 11 shots. Guard McKenzie Adams and forward Stephanie Collins had 10 points each. Guard Morgan Bolton set a career mark handing out 8 assists. Her 9 rebounds was a season-high and tied a career-best.
Temple earned their 20th win of the year against 5 losses. In the American the Owls post a 10 – 2 record. Next up is a trip to Florida to meet USF, who handed Temple of their 5 defeats. Following that is a trek to Storrs, CT to meet #1 UConn.
The Owls wore pink and grey in honor of Kay Yow Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
Written By: Glenn Papazian