Feyonda Fitzgerald had no idea how close she was to a triple-double. Her coach, Tonya Cardoza, did.
Cardoza usually doesn’t worry too much about trying to leave a player out on the court for an individual accomplishment, but she was persuaded into keeping her senior guard out on the floor for a few extra minutes to try and record the first triple-double in program history.
“I had all these people in my ear to put her back out there,” Cardoza said.
Fitzgerald finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — one rebound and two assists short — before Cardoza took her out with just less than four minutes left in the game.
While she didn’t make history, Fitzgerald’s effort helped Temple pick up a 70-43 win against Tulsa on Wednesday afternoon at the Liacouras Center.
“I was just playing basketball, doing whatever I had to do to help my team win,” Fitzgerald said. “Whether that was scoring or finding the open teammate, I just made sure I did what I had to do.”
The Owls’ offense got out to a slow start, shooting 33.3 percent from the floor in the first quarter and missing all five of their attempts from 3-point range. But Temple (18-5, 8-2 American Athletic Conference) held Tulsa to to 3-of-16 shooting in the first quarter to grab a 19-10 lead.
Junior guard Donnaizha Fountain helped steady the offense in the first half. Fountain scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Coming off a 26-point, eight-rebound game in Sunday’s win against Tulane, Fountain finished with a 17 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes on Wednesday.
“Coming out and focusing on defense,” Fountain said of her recent success. “Everything else is going to come naturally, or is going to come within the flow of the game.”
Temple held its opponent below 60 points for the eighth time in its past nine games. The only exception was a 97-69 loss to Connecticut.
Cardoza said the Owls’ defensive focus was on Tulsa freshman guard Shug Dickson. In the team’s first meeting on Jan. 14, Dickson scored 21 points. Temple held Dickson to five points on 2-of-13 shooting.
The Golden Hurricane shot 22.2 percent from the floor as a team. Tulsa scored just seven points in the third quarter.
“Today and the Tulane game, we didn’t let teams to score in the way that they wanted, and taking away their top players,” Cardoza said.
With her team holding a significant advantage for the majority of the second half, Cardoza got the opportunity to get some younger players much needed minutes.
Freshman forwards Shannen Atkinson and Shantay Taylor both played double-digit minutes. Atkinson had two points, two rebounds and a block in 17 minutes. Taylor had three rebounds and a block in 13 minutes.
“The minutes that I’m concerned about now are our freshman, making sure the freshman bigs get more minutes and more reps just because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Cardoza said. “Right now we’re playing so small and you never know when you you’re gonna need one of those guys down the road.”
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.