Heartbreaker: Temple Women Fall in Opening Round of NCAA Tournament

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Despite Junior Aaliyah Butts’ season high 28 points, the Temple Owls were stunned by the Oregon Ducks in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

It was a wild back and forth battle throughout, as the game would see nine ties and three lead changes.

Temple would trail 69-68 with just under a minute to go after Oregon’s Sabrina Ioenescu hit a go ahead basket with 24 seconds left in the game. The Owls would respond ten seconds later with a basket from senior Feyonda Fitzgerald to retake the lead. Oregon would then once again score another basket to take a 71-70 lead; this time from freshman Ruthy Hebard with 5.5 seconds left. Fitzgerald would then push the ball down the court and drive to the lane to attempt a game winning basket where she would be blocked at the rim, and the game would end.

Temple would be led by the individual performance of Aaliyah Butts who scored her season high of 28 points, and would also notch two steals. Butts was accompanied by her backcourt teammate Feyonda Fitzgerald who scored 16 points, and dished six assist. Junior Tanaya Atkinson would also chip in some help on the boards as Atkinson would grab 14 rebounds to go along with her eight points.

Temple’s backcourt tandem of Butts and Fitzgerald would account for a combined 89 percent of the Owls’ offensive production on the night.

The game was the first NCAA tournament game Temple had played in since 2011, when the Owls fell to the second seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the round of 32. The loss comes as Temple’s eighth on the season, and it is only the second time this season Temple has lost a game while scoring 70 or more points; the only other time being back on Nov. 19 against the Florida Gators (76-83).
The Owls will end their season (24-8), which is the best record Temple has had under coach Tonya Cardoza in over seven years.

Fitzgerald Scores AAC Tournament Record, Owls Top Houston

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Courtesy of Owls Sports

The second-seeded Temple Owls defeated the 10th-seeded Houston Cougars Saturday to move on in the American Conference tournament.

The win comes as Temple’s 24th of the season overall, and the Owls third in a row. It is also Temple’s eighth win in the last nine games.

The Owls were led by a record setting performance on the part of senior Feyonda Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald scored a game high 30 points, which is the most points ever scored in a single American Conference tournament game. The trio of Fitzgerald, and juniors Aaliyah Butts and Tanaya Atkinson combined for 65 of the team’s 67 points. Butts would finish with 19 points, while Atkinson would finish with 16.

Even though the trio of Butts, Fitzgerald, and Atkinson accounted for a majority of the scoring, both seniors Ruth Sherill and Safiya Martin each played key roles in the win. Sherill would notch a game-high 15 rebounds, while Martin would grab seven rebounds and tied a season high in blocks with four. The duo’s rebounding led to a 40-33 advantage on the boards.

“You know people just stepped up and made shots when they had to,” said Head Coach Tonya Cardoza.

One of those people that Coach Cardoza spoke of is Feyonda Fitzgerald. Alongside her record setting 30 points, Fitzgerald shot a solid 48 percent from the field. Out of Fitzgeralds 30 points, 18 would be scored in the second half. She would also notch game-high seven assist.

“Well at the beginning, I was a little cold so I was trying to find other ways I could help my team out,” said Fitzgerald. “Whether that was distributing the ball or getting to the basket. Then my shot started falling so I just kept shooting and doing what I had to do to help my team win the game.”

The win is the second straight opening round victory for the Owls in the conference tournament. Temple previously dropped two straight opening round matchups in their first two appearances in the American Conference tournament.

Temple Downs UCF In Regular Season Finale

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Courtesy OwlSports

The Temple Owls women’s basketball team closed out their regular season Monday with a victory over the Golden Knights of UCF.

The win improves Temple to an overall record of 23-6, and it also improves the Owls to 13-3 in conference play. The victory also helps the Owls clinch the second seed in the AAC tournament. It is the highest seed the Owls have ever held in the tournament since the conference was created back in 2013.

Temple was lead by junior Tanaya Atkinson, who led all scorers with 21 points and nine rebounds. The Owls also had solid efforts from junior Aaliyah Butts who notched 20 points and seven steals, and Senior Feyonda Fitzgerald who produced 19 points and nine assist.

After UCF would take a 4-3 lead early, Temple would outscore UCF 19-4 in the first quarter to put the score at 22-8. The Owls during that run would shoot 56% from the field, and did not commit a turnover.

UCF would climb back in the second half, as the Golden Knights would cut the lead to six within the first five minutes of the second half. The last five minutes of the second half would see Temple push the lead back up to nine thanks three point baskets from Aaliyah Butts, and Feyonda Fitzgerald. Butts would end off the period with a buzzer beater that would push the lead to 31-22.

Temple would jump out to an 8-2 run early in the third quarter to push the lead to 14, before UCF would counter with a 9-2 run to cut the lead to just seven. Temple would then respond again with an 8-0 surge that would put the score at 53-38 at the the end of the third.

In the final frame, UCF would go on its largest run yet as the Golden Knights would hit a 17-5 run to cut the Temple lead to just three. The surge would fall short of helping UCF to a victory when Temple’s Aaliyah Butts would score an “and-one” to push the lead to six. The Owls would go on to clinch the victory after Butts would also chime in on two big defensive stops down the stretch to seal the deal.

Temple will be heading to the American Athletic Conference Tournament this weekend in Connecticut, and will play the winner between the Houston/Cincinnati game.

Temple Drops Third Straight Loss In Heartbreaking Fashion

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Courtesy of Owl Sports

The Temple Owls loss another game that went down to the wire Wednesday night, as the Owls would lose their third straight game against UCF.

Temple would hold a lead for most of the game, even going up 11 at one point in the second half, but UCF would overcome the deficit and defeat the Owls down the stretch. Temple even led for over 23 minutes of game time, but once again the Owls would fall short.

The Owls would be led by the individual performances of junior Obi Enechionyia, who led all Temple scorers with 17 points. All of Enechionyia’s points would come in the second half. Temple would also receive solid performances from sophomore Shizz Alston jr., who notched 15 points, and both freshman Quinton Rose and senior Mark Williams; both scoring 11 points.

Temple would hold a lead with just under a minute to play in the game, when B.J. Taylor of UCF would hit a mid-range jumper to take the lead. Temple would receive two opportunities to take the lead; one being a shot attempt from Obi Enechionyia with 30 seconds left, and the other being a shot attempt from Mark Williams with seven seconds left after a missed free throw from UCF’s Tako Fall. The two shots would ultimately fail to go in, and UCF would pull of the victory.

The loss comes as Temple’s third in a row, and second straight game were Temple blew a lead with in the final minute of a game. The other game being the heartbreaking loss to UConn that the Owls suffered on Sunday. It also is the second loss of the season to UCF; their first coming back on Dec. 31 when they were dominated on the road by UCF 77-53.

“We loss this one, and it’s tough” said Temple’s Shizz Alston. “But, we just didn’t hit our shots in these last two games. If Obi can hit his shots and Dan plays well, I think we’re a tough team to face. In fact, I think we could make a deep run into the tournament.”

The loss drops Temple to a conference record of 5-11, and an overall record of 14-15. It also drops the Owls home record at the Liacouras Center to 8-7.

Temple will be back in action Saturday, Feb. 25 for their last home game of the season against Tulane. Tip off is at 12pm.

Temple Downs SMU To Notch 20th Win of the Season

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In dominating fashion, the #25 ranked Temple Owls handled the SMU Mustangs to clinch their 20th victory of the season. The win comes as Temple’s tenth conference victory of the season, and fourth straight win in a row.

The Owls were lead by the contributions of junior Donnaizha Fountain who tallied another double-double on the season, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Temple would ride on the shoulders of senior Feyonda Fitzgerald who scored  17 points and notch 6 assist. Junior Tanaya Atkinson provided a solid effort off the bench as she would score 12 points and grab six rebounds.

The game was a blow-out from the start as the Owls would jump off to 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. The main reason for the explosive start could be the 18 rebounds the team had in the first quarter compared to SMU’s 11. Out of Temple’s 18 first quarter rebounds, senior Ruth Sherill would account for seven of them. It also helped that seven of the 18 rebounds were offensive rebounds as well, compared to SMU’s two. Temple would eventually outscore the Mustangs 19-4 in the first quarter.

For the rest of the game, it would be difficult for SMU to comeback from the huge first quarter deficit. Though SMU would get off to a slow start, the Mustangs would actually compete with Temple through the remanding three quarters, even outscoring the Owls 33-30 in the second half. The deficit would be to big, and Temple defeated SMU 66-52.

“No matter what, we still found ways to increase the lead in this game,” said Head Coach Tonya Cardoza. “Even though they basically beat us in the third and fourth quarter.”

The win not only marks the 20th win of the season for the Owls, it also clinches coach Cardoza’s seventh 20th win season of her head coaching career. It also is the first victory since Temple was officially announced as a nationally ranked team on Tuesday.

“To know that we are getting noticed and our hard work is paying off feels great.” said senior Feyonda Fitzgerald. “But like coach said it doesn’t stop here. We got to keep working, and we have to keep getting better as a team.”

Temple will be back in action Sunday at 1:00, at #22 ranked USF as the Owls will look to avenge the Jan. 29 loss they suffered against the Bulls. The game will be televised on ESPN 2.

#23 USF Halts Temple Women’s Basketball’s Twelve Game Winning Streak

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After racking up twelve straight victories in a row, the Owls fell to the 23rd ranked South Florida Bulls by a score 55-51. making it their first loss since Dec. 7 when the Owls lost at Hampton.

USF had control for most of the game, and Temple made a late rally- pulling within 2 points despite trailing by 16 in the fourth quarter. The game was lost after Temple failed to hit a three pointer on their last possession, despite having three opportunities to do so on offensive rebounds.

Some explanation for the loss is due to the Owls shooting a dismal 25.8% from the field compared to USF’s 40% from the field. Poor shooting performances from Temple star players plagued the team as leading scorer Feyonda Fitzgerald shot a mere 15% on the night, while Donnaizha Fountain (30%)  and Aaliyah Butts (29%) from the field also struggled to find their stroke.

The Owls, who this season are shooting 31.4% from beyond the arc, shot 18.5% from the three on Sunday. It also didn’t help that Temple, who usually out rebounds their opponents by an average margin of 5.1 rebounds per game, were out rebounded by the Bulls 47-36.

Despite a poor statistical performance from the Owls, Temple managed to cut the lead to two late in the fourth quarter after trailing by 16 earlier in the frame. After a USF free throw put the Bulls ahead 47-31, Temple would spark an 18-4 run that cut the lead to 51-49.

After both teams traded baskets, USF’s Maria Jespersen would make one out of two free throws to push the lead to three. Despite having three three-point shot attempts, the Owls were not able to hit one and tie the game which would lead a USF rebound that would ultimately clinch the game for USF.

Temple will be back in action against the #1 ranked team in the nation, the UConn Huskies at the Liacouras Center Wednesday at 7pm.

Temple Women’s Basketball Soars During Win Streak

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When it comes to Women’s basketball in the American Athletic Conference, there are currently two major win streaks taking place. One of the win streaks is arguably one of the most dominant win streaks in the history of sports currently being held by the #1 ranked UConn Huskies, who are currently sitting on a 93 game win streak. The other streak is currently being held by the Temple Owls who are currently sitting on an 11 game win streak.

The streak started back Dec. 10, in Villanova when the Owls pulled of the largest victory over the Wildcats in the history of the rivalry. Since then, the Owls have defeated all 5 of the conference opponents they have faced, #17 ranked DePaul on live T.V, and has averaged a margin of victory of 17.4 PPG over their opponents.

“It finally now seems we know where can be” says junior forward Tanaya Atkinson, who became the 25th player to reach the 1,000 point mark during this stretch. “It’s like we’re finally putting all the pieces together and becoming what we’re supposed to be.”

The other Owl at the helm of the streak- senior Feyonda Fitzgerald. The guard is having a remarkable year, averaging 18.4 points and 7.5 assists in every contest. In seven of the Owls’ last 11 wins, Fitzgerald has scored 19 or more points. Four times she has had more than 10 assists.

The Owls have had some even more impressive numbers over the course of the win streak including: averaging 73.1 PPG which is the highest that stat has been since head coach Tonya Cardoza arrived at Temple, 42.9 rebounds per game, a 40 % shooting percentage, and a nice 17.6 PPG off of turnovers.

Temple also has an overall record of 15-3, and a conference record of 6-0.

What sparked the win streak is still a topic for debate. Some could say it would was the Owls’ last loss when Temple suffered a devastating six point loss back on Dec. 7, at Hampton.

“It definitely had something to do with it,” said Atkinson who missed the game due to an injury. “That loss hurt a lot, and I just think it gave us the spark we needed.”

The win streak has provided Temple with the opportunity to compete for the Philadelphia Big 5 outright championship. With a win on Wednesday against Penn, not only will the win streak extend to 12 games, but Temple could also win their first outright Big 5 Championship since 2011.

The Penn game is not the only big game that the Owls have coming up. The Owls also will travel to USF to take on the #23 ranked Bulls on Saturday, then will have to host the #1 team in the nation UConn next Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the Liacouras Center.

Though Temple has a difficult schedule coming up, the Owls still have confidence that they’re one of the best teams in the conference.

“I definitely do feel like we are one of the best teams in the conference” said Atkinson. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given night in this league so it’s crazy that we’re in this position, but I definitely do feel that we are in the talk of being the best team in the conference.”

Temple Downs Tulane to Notch Seventh Straight Win

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Temple Women’s Basketball was victorious for the seventh straight time this season on Sunday, as the Owls defeated the Tulane Green Wave 86-71.

The Owls were lead by the contributions of Tanaya Atkinson, who scored 21 points and notched her 1,000th point of her career. The Owls were also lead by junior Alliya Butts who also scored 21 points, and Feyonda Fitzgerald who racked up her fourth straight double-double with 20 points and a career high 13 assists.

After scoring the first basket of the game, the Tulane Green Wave would not regain the lead or tie for the rest of the game. Temple would jump out to a 21-7 advantage in the first quarter. The quarter would be defined by an 8-2 run early in the frame by the Owls, and an 11-0 run to end the quarter.

Tulane would start the 2nd quarter with a 7-0 run to close the gap to 22-14, but Temple would push the lead back up to 33-18 after an 11-4 run by the Owls. Temple would lead by as much as 16 in the quarter, before a sequence of baskets from Tulane’s Leslie Vorpahl would help the Green Wave close the gap to just 14 to end the quarter. The Owls would lead 40-26 at the half.

Though Tulane would start the quarter off hot by going on a 12-5 run to cut the lead to single digits, it would not be enough. The Owls would respond with a 12-2 run to extend the lead to 19 points; the largest lead of the game. Tulane would close out the frame with a buzzer beater to cut the lead to 16.

In the fourth quarter, Tulane shot 57.9% from the field, but it still wasn’t enough to help the Green Wave mount a comeback, as Temple would shoot 62.5% from the field.

“It’s just a great team effort” said Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza in Sunday Night’s press conference after the game. “I’m just happy and proud of the way they’re playing right now.”

The Owls are playing exceptionally well as their 86 points marks the 5th time Temple has scored over 80 points this season. Since the Owls have started their winning streak, they’ve averaged as a team 75 points, and have won by an average margin of victory of 22.9 points per game.

The Owls have not lost a game since Dec. 7, 2016 when they lost to the Hampton Pirates on the road 71-65.

The win improves the Owls to 6-0 in conference play, and 11-3 overall.

Temple’s next game will be Wednesday, Jan. 11, against East Carolina at McGonigle Hall. Tip-off is at 7 pm.

Temple Women’s Basketball Defeats Rutgers to Win Third in a Row

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Courtesy of Temple Athletics
Courtesy of Temple Athletics

The Temple Owls defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to earn their third straight victory. The win comes just two days after the Owls’ big upset over the #16 ranked DePaul.

Temple was lead by the individual efforts of senior Feyonda Fitzgerald who led all scorers with 19 points, and had a career high in steals with six. Also, junior Donnaizha Fountain had a solid individual showing as Fountain notched 15 points, and grabbed seven rebounds.

Rutgers got off to a hot start as the Scarlet Knights opened up an 11-2 lead over the Owls early in the first quarter. Temple responded with five unanswered points to cut the lead to 11-7. Rutgers went on to score the next four out of five points to take a 15-8 lead to end the first quarter. Temple shot a dismal 0-7 beyond the three point mark in the first quarter.

Rutgers began the second quarter by outscoring Temple 8-2 to take a 23-10 lead. From that point, the Owls outscored Rutgers 8-3 and cut the lead to 26-18 to end the first half.

It was a dominant second half for Temple including a decent third quarter from the Owls. Temple held the Scarlet Knights to just seven points while scoring 16 points, and shooting 47% from the field after shooting a dismal 27.6% from the field in the first half. The Owls took a 39-33 lead heading into to the fourth quarter.

The final quarter would be a low scoring defensive battle. Temple outscored Rutgers 9-4 to end the game at 48-37 with the advantage going to Temple.

The Owls will play their final game of 2016 on Thursday against Fairfield at McGonigle Hall.

Butts 21 Second Half Points Helps Lift Owls Over Villanova

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Temple junior Aaliyah Butts had herself a day, as her 27 points would help the Owls defeat Villanova on the road by thirty-five points.

The win is Temple’s largest ever over the Wildcats in the history of the rivalry, and the largest margin of victory this season for the Owls. It is also the third time this season that Temple has scored over 80 points, and the first time the Owls has scored over 80 points while holding the opposing team to under 60 points in the same game this season.

The game would see four players for the Owls score double digits, and would also see two Owls notch double-doubles. The Owls were spearheaded by Aaliyah Butts 27 points and 5 assist; 21 of Butts’s points came in the second half. Other great individual performances for the Owls included senior Feyonda Fitzgerald’s 20 points, 14 of which came in the first half. Fitzgerald also added 8 assist. Donnaizha Fountain had another double double as she would score 17 points and would grab 12 rebounds.

The surprise performance of the day came from senior Ruth Sherill who notched her career high in points and rebounds with 13 each. It would also be the first time Sherill notched a double-double in her career at Temple.

“This is Temple Basketball, and this is what we normally do” said Fitzgerald. “I.m not impressed by my team, but I’m proud because of what we’ve done today while coming off the loss to Hampton during the week.”

“I’m really excited about what they did today” said coach Tonya Cardoza. “To be able to beat Villanova on the road after struggling throughout the season on the road is just really exciting for me.”

The Owls stopped a 3 game skid on the road Saturday after defeating Villanova at the Pavillion. The win puts Temple at (5-3), and also are now (3-0) in the Big 5. With a Penn Big 5 loss, the Owls will own the Big 5 title.

The next game for the Owls is Thursday, Dec. 15 against #16 ranked DePaul at McGonigle Hall. The game will be nationally television on ESPNU.