Temple finished the regular season against Central Florida on Monday night. In the first matchup of the season between the teams, the Owls defeated the Knights 66-60 in Orlando, Florida.
With the win, Temple (23-6, 13-3) locked up the second seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Owls will play the winner of the the Cincinnati and Houston game in the tournament on Saturday in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“It is a totally different season now, it’s tournament time,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “Every team knows it’s win or go home now, so it doesn’t matter what seed we are we have to go out and play.”
Senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald set a school and conference season record for assists with 205 in the win. Junior guard Alliya Butts joined Fitzgerald in the record book. She set the school record for 3-pointers made with 78.
“The milestones, I think, are a secondary achievement to the winning and success we are having on the court,” Cardoza said. “The milestones are nice and all, but the winning is coming first.”
Temple used a new starting lineup for the time in about two months because junior guard Donnaizha Fountain suffered a knee injury on Saturday against Cincinnati. There is no update on the severity of the injury. Fountain sat out as a precaution.
In Fountain’s absence, Fitzgerald, Butts and junior guard Tanaya Atkinson shouldered the load offensively. All three scored at least 19 points. Fitzgerald finished with 19, Butts had 20 and Atkinson led the Owls with the team-high 21 points.
Temple took a lead right before the halfway point of the first quarter and did not look back from there. Butts scored 14 points and made four threes on seven attempts in the first half.
Atkinson and Fitzgerald paced the Owls in the second half to secure the win. Atkinson scored 14 points and grabbed all nine of her rebounds in the second half. Fitzgerald scored 13 points and added two of her game-high nine assists in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Central Florida brought the score within three points in the last three minutes of the game. But Fitzgerald made five of her six free throw attempts in the last minute to ice the game for the Owls. Butts and Fitzgerald played all 40 minutes in the win.
“I just didn’t think there was a time where I needed to take them out,” Cardoza said. “Whether it was the situation, or them just not being tired I wanted them on the court the whole time.”
Kevin Schaeffer can be at firstname.lastname@example.org or @_kevinschaeffer. Follow The Temple News on Twitter @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.