After the Owls allowed an average of 78 points in their first two games, coach Tonya Cardoza wanted her team to give more effort on the defensive end.
The Owls responded to their coach against Wagner College by holding the Seahawks to less than 40 points in a 70-36 win Thursday night at McGonigle Hall. Temple held three teams to less than 40 points last season.
“It was nice to see us setting the tone early in the game, only allowing seven points in the each of the first two quarters,” Cardoza said. “We knew [fifth-year senior forward Sierra Clark] was their leading scorer and that she was gonna get the ball a lot. So we focused on her and held her to 6-15 shooting.”
Temple (2-1) controlled the game from the tip. It scored the first seven points of the game and forced the Seahawks to take a timeout with six minutes, 40 seconds left in the first quarter.
Senior guard Tanaya Atkinson led the Owls in scoring in the first quarter with six points. She helped Temple stretch its 7-2 lead with an 11-0 run during the period. Temple closed the first quarter with a 21-7 lead.
Atkinson has led the Owls in scoring in all three games and had more than 20 points in each game. She finished with 24 against Wagner. Atkinson also added 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season
“As soon as [senior guard Alliya Butts] went down, I knew I had to take a bigger role scoring wise,” Atkinson said. “With me and her being the two that have played heavy minutes our whole time here, I wanted to show the younger players how Temple basketball is played.”
Temple’s defensive pressure caused problems for Wagner throughout the game. The Owls won the turnover battle, 28-11, and accumulated 14 steals. Atkinson led the team with five steals.
For the first time in three games, freshman forward Mia Davis didn’t score in double figures. She finished with two points in a season-low 23 minutes. Davis committed fouls with 3:25 and 3:13 left in the first quarter and left the game after the second foul.
“Mia and Tanaya are the two players that just can’t get in foul trouble,” Cardoza said. “They’re our two best scorers, and we’d be in a lot of trouble if they’re not on the court.”
With Davis’ availability limited, freshman guard Desiree Oliver had her first double-figure scoring game of the season. She finished as Temple’s second-leading scorer with 18 points, seven of which came in the fourth quarter.
“I remember watching a lot of [Feyonda Fitzgerald] last season before coming here, and that’s who I try to play like when I’m put on the court,” Oliver said. “Being one of the guards to replace her and be a ball handler is a big load to carry on.”
Temple will go on the road for the first time when it faces Iona College at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Then it will face Big 5 rival La Salle on Wednesday at Tom Gola Arena.