Five-guard lineup keys victory against Rams

With nine minutes remaining in the game, 5-foot-9-sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson defended Fordham University 6-foot-2 senior forward Samantha Clark inside the paint. Clark dribbled to the left and launched a shot before Atkinson reached up and grabbed it.

Atkinson scanned the court and found junior guard Donnaizha Fountain open on the other end, passing to her to hit the go-ahead layup to extend the Owls lead to 22, their largest of the game.

Fountain’s bucket was Temple’s 26th point scored off a turnover, in Temple’s 57-44 win against the Rams at Fordham University at Rose Hill Gymnasium Saturday afternoon.

“We came into the game [knowing] that we had to put a lot of pressure on the ball handler and try to be disruptive, and it paid off for us,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “They have really big post players, so I felt like if we didn’t go up and pressure them, they we’re going to get an easy bucket.”

For the fourth straight game, Cardoza put her five guards, Alliya Butts, Feyonda Fitzgerald, Fountain, Erica Covile, and Atkinson into the starting lineup.

“We just knew it was going to be difficult especially starting the five guards,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “But they’re our best offense options as well.”

Temple (5-4) outscored Fordham 15-0 in points off turnovers in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Owls cooled off with a slower tempo, scoring four buckets but holding the Rams to 20 shot attempts despite being outrebounded 18-11 in the first half.

“We were scoring, so I felt like there were not a lot of rebounds to be had,” Cardoza said. “Sometimes I feel like that number could favor other teams if we’re causing turnovers.”

Fountain scored a team high 10 points in the first 20 minutes.

The Rams had 17 turnovers to the Owls five in the first half. Fordham did not capitalize on any of those turnovers, but outscored the Owls 11-7 in the second half on their mistakes.

Butts didn’t score her first points off the game until one minute into the third quarter, where she scored a go-ahead layup off a steal. Butts did not attempt a shot until 6 minutes remained in the second quarter, but finished the game with 13 points, one behind Fountain’s team-high 14.

“I think it’s difficult to defend off of five guards,” Cardoza said. “Right now, it’s working for us and we’re going to stay with it until we have to change it.”

The Owls contained Clark for majority of the first half, who scored four points and lingered outside of the paint on majority of the Rams’ possessions. In the third quarter, however, she had a bigger presence, finishing with a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds.

“[Clark’s] a really big target and early on, we were causing turnovers and being really disruptive,” Cardoza said. “In the second half, they did things a little differently like they were supposed to, and found other ways to get [Clark] involved.”

The Rams struggled from three-point range going 0-for-7 in the first three quarters. They finished 2-of-12 shooting from three.

Fordham had three opportunities with two minutes remaining in the game to cut Temple’s lead to single digits. But with a turnover and two missed shots, Temple ran the clock down to seal the win.

Temple and Fordham finished even in the rebounding battle at 34 boards for each team. Fountain and senior guard Erica Covile both grabbed seven rebounds, and graduate center Ugo Nwaigwe had four rebounds off the bench.

“We told our players to be smart and put a lot of pressure on the players, so that it would make it difficult,” Cardoza said. “[Nwaigwe] came in and played well against [Clark] and made it difficult for them.”

Mark McCormick can be reached at mark.mccormick@temple.edu or by Twitter @MarkJMcCormick.

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