Temple Tops Tulane for Seventh Straight
By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru
PHILADELPHIA – There is a want not to jump to conclusions but more and more each game since the hiccup setbacks early last month is beginning to show that this may be the Temple season of promise.
A few hours delay Sunday from an original 1 p.m. start until 6 p.m. at night because of the visitors’ cancelled flight from New Orleans Saturday due to the inclement weather did not throw the Owls off course from what became a solid 86-71 victory over Tulane in McGonigle Hall in the American Athletic Conference.
Given that this was the seventh straight win for Temple (11-3, 2-0 AAC) and that it came over a quite respectable Green Wave outfit (10-6, 1-2), when the Owls lead grew to 19 late in the third period, there was an impulse to take ones eyes off the action in front to the schedule on page one of the game-day notes and proclaim this streak has the ability to keep churning till the end of the month when nationally-ranked South Florida and No. 1 Connecticut comes to town.
Just before those two is the game at Penn at The Palestra, which with a win would produced a 4-0 sweep and the Philadelphia Big 5 title.
“We’re not worried about those games right now,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza admonished. “We’re just focusing on our next game against East Carolina on Wednesday. And hopefully we’re letting this game carry over to that. And we just have to make sure we’re buckling down, defensively and not giving up second chance opportunities.”
It was another big scoring production outing for Temple’s backcourt as well as several other players though a lot of help came from the defense helping the Owls speed down in transition.
Alliya Butts had 21 points off 6-for-12 shooting from the field, including 4-for-7 on 3-point attempts, while Feyonda Fitzgerald had another double double, this one carved out of 20 points and a career-high 13 assists.
Tanaya Atkinson, who admitted after the game being in a recent slump, also had 21 points, including her 1,000th, to match Butts for game honors.
Ruth Sherrill, who has been a key reason for the Owls’ spurt after being moved into the starting lineup, had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“She’s just been someone that’s been really durable,” Cardoza said. “She’s earned every single minute that she’s been out there and she’s definitely taking advantage of her opportunities and has blossomed into a really good player for us, but more important, someone who has shown a lot of leadership on the floor.
“It was just a great team effort and, again, I’m just happy and proud how they’re playing right now.”
Kolby Morgan had 23 points for Tulane while Leslie Vorpahl had 19 but Temple built a double digit lead so fast that the Owls were able to stay ahead and not suffer much of a slice into the differential they held most of the night.
Cardoza felt her group in the fourth quarter with things under control got a bit mentally tired and gave up second chance points that otherwise might have been avoided.
“It’s just something we’re going to have to learn from and grow.”
Prior to the game, aired nationally on ESPNU after having been set for ESPN2 before the tipoff change, Cardoza was honored for having recently passed her good friend and predecessor Dawn Staley, now at South Carolina, after becoming Temple’s winningest coach.
Immediately afterwards, Way Veney, who has been an assistant on Cardoza’s staff since the former UConn aide’s hire in July 2008, was cited by Cardoza for having been part of all the victories.
The East Carolina game will tip at 7 Wednesday night in McGonigle Hall and then Temple travels to Tulsa and Houston for their next two games before returning home on Jan. 21 to host Memphis, the team the Owls recently beat in overtime on the road. That game tips at 2 p.m., also in McGonigle Hall.