Fouls Didn’t Stop Lady Owls from Winning Home Opener

Opening day on the court started off slowly for the owls in a match-up between city rivals. The LaSalle Explorers came into the Liacouras Center losing 5 of their last 6 matchups to the Owls who, with Tonya Cardoza at the helm, were looking to separate themselves from LaSalle for the first time in the historic series between the two programs. Coming in, both teams were 21 for 42 against one another and the owls seemed determined from the start.

It was a 2-0 game in favor of LaSalle until about the 18 minute mark of the half when Erica Covile tied the game with a lay up starting the shooting-spree that ensued for Temple. The Owls really began to separate towards the end of the half when, for three and a half minutes, they went on a 10-0 run led by the field goal shooting of sophomore guard Feyonda Fitzgerald. She ended the half shooting 5 for 13 (40%) from the floor, 3 for 4 (75%) from behind the arch, and 4 for 5 (80%) from the foul line, leading the Owls in every category including total points with 17. Covile managed 13 total points, helping give Temple the 46-44 lead at the half.

The Explores managed a good half themselves, scoring the first 2 points of the contest with an Ebony Wells jump shot. Though the Explorers did go down by 11 twice in the first half, they finished out strong with a 7-0 run in the last 50 seconds. Ashanti Freeland started it off with a lay up and finished it with a block that led to her teammate Siobhan Beslow drawing a foul. Beslow sank both tries and LaSalle closed out the half within one possession of the Owls. Micahya Owens led the Explorers with 11 points and 19 minutes played at the half.

Headed into the second, LaSalle looked to improve on their first half rush. But 9 straight misses and 1 turnover later, the Explorers were down by 9 and their shooting percentage dropped dramatically. After about ten minutes of back-and-forth lay ups and foul shots by both teams, LaSalle found themselves in the lead by 5 points, their biggest of the game. However, as with the beginning of the half, 6 straight misses and 3 fouls later, the Explorers found themselves in the loss column to start off their season. This time, it was Alicia Cropper who led LaSalle with 11 points on 4 field goals and two free throws. The Explorers shot just 31% from the floor in half number two.

In the second half, the Owls looked to separate for good after the run by the Explorers at the end of the first. They did just that, starting their second possession of the half with a 3-point jumper from Tanaya Atkinson. Atkinson, who played 17 minutes in the first half without a point, ended the game with 9 points and 3 rebounds. Defensively, Temple did let up 28 points to their own 29, but Fitzgerald was still the story of the game as she netted 12 points to put the Owls over the top. Her jumper with 34 seconds left put the Owls in the lead by 1 and subsequent intentional fouls by the Explorers sent both Fitzgerald and Atkinson to the stripe where they sealed the game for Temple. The Owls also played a surprisingly clean second half, only sending an Explorer to the stripe once, compared to 7 times in the first half.

It was a game that left the fans standing in anticipation and the referees busy with all of the foul action. Both teams combined for 40 personal fouls, most of them travels and 31 turnovers. Nearly 30% of LaSalles points came off the bench, compared to 12% for Temple. While Temple shot around 37% from the floor all game, LaSalles production dropped dramatically from 48% in the first half to almost 32% from the floor in the second. Temple will visit St. Joe’s on Tuesday before heading to Kansas to compete in the Hall of Fame challenge.

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