On Wednesday night, the Owls traded in their cherry and white uniforms for special grey and pink jerseys.
Temple wore pink and encouraged fans to do so as well for its Play4Kay Breast Cancer Awareness Game, which honors late North Carolina State University basketball coach Kay Yow and raises money for breast cancer research.
Even without its traditional colors, Temple, which is ranked No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, defeated Southern Methodist 66-52 Wednesday night at McGonigle Hall. Temple (20-5, 10-2 American Athletic Conference) has now won 20-games for the seventh time under coach Tonya Cardoza.
The Owls take a half-game lead over No. 22 South Florida to move into second place in The American.
“Any time you can get 20 wins, that’s a really good season for you, but we’re not going to stop at 20,” Cardoza said. “We’re trying to win as many games as we possibly can. But for this program to, since I’ve been here, have seven in the nine years, that’s a credit to my players buying into what I’m trying to sell and my coaching staff.”
The Owls took an early 15-point lead in the first quarter after holding the Mustangs to four points, which proved helpful when the Owls were outscored in the final two quarters.
“I thought we got off to a really good start in the first quarter,” Cardoza said. “Obviously, I wish we would’ve done a better job defensively after having a quarter like that and then pretty much, they beat us in the third and fourth quarter. But that’s me nitpicking and wanting to be really good all the time.”
Junior guard Donnaizha Fountain led the Owls in scoring with 19 points, while also pulling in 12 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season. Senior forward Ruth Sherrill grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds.
Senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald scored 17 and junior guard Tanaya Atkinson added 12. Fitzgerald also recorded five of the Owls’ nine steals.
Temple shot 33.8 percent from the floor. While most of the team struggled, Fitzgerald went 7-of-14 and contributed three 3-pointers.
“Today, my shot was falling, so I just made sure I kept shooting,” Fitzgerald said. “I was trying to find my open teammates, but it wasn’t going well for them, so I feel like it was on me to make sure if I had the open shot, I shot it.”
Wednesday’s contest was the first game Temple has played as a nationally ranked team since the 2005-06 season. The Owls’ next two games are on the road against ranked opponents, starting with South Florida on Sunday.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for the whole time,” Fitzgerald said. “To know that our hard work is finally paying off and being noticed, it feels great to know that. But like coach said, just because we’re ranked doesn’t mean we’re going to lax off or just do whatever now. We’re going to keep doing what we have to do and keep getting better each and every day as a team.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CaptainAMAURAca. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.