At the end of Temple’s American Athletic Conference opener on Dec. 30, senior guard Tanaya Atkinson’s stat line read like this — a season-low six points, two assists, five rebounds and four fouls in 24 minutes.
Before Temple’s 30-point road loss to Central Florida on Dec. 30, Atkinson hadn’t posted a single-digit scoring performance since the Owls’ NCAA Tournament loss to the University of Oregon in March 2017.
Atkinson, the 13th-leading scorer in Division I, opened the new year by powering Temple (9-5, 1-1 The American) to a 55-52 win against Southern Methodist (6-10, 0-3 The American) on Sunday at McGonigle Hall. She finished with game-highs of 23 points and 11 rebounds to go with two steals.
“I came out with a lot of confidence,” Atkinson said. “I wanted to focus on finishing.”
Atkinson helped keep the game close down the stretch after having a big second quarter with eight points.
Temple and Southern Methodist entered the fourth tied at 45. Atkinson led all players in the quarter with five points and four rebounds. She shot 2-for-4 from the field.
Atkinson had an injury scare in the fourth quarter when Atkinson exited with one minute, 10 seconds left holding her left knee. Temple only had a two-point lead when she left the game after freshman forward Mia Davis’ layup.
“I didn’t realize the time on the clock,” Atkinson said. “When I saw that, I tried to do everything I could to get back on the floor. It was just a cramp, not drinking enough water.”
“‘Why are you out of the game?’” coach Tonya Cardoza said she was thinking at the time. “‘A cramp is not going to keep me out of the game with the game on the line.’”
Atkinson reentered the game with 13 seconds left and helped defend the Mustangs’ last-second 3-point attempt that would have tied the game.
After averaging 13 points and 8.7 rebounds per game as a junior, Atkinson has raised her averages to 21.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in her senior season.
She currently leads The American in rebounding and is second in scoring. Last season, Atkinson won the league’s Sixth Player of the Year award. If she continues her pace, Atkinson should be due for more postseason honors.
“We need her in the game because she’s the guy that will go in and get that rebound or score.”