Atkinson sparks Owls to semifinals

Sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson scored 20 points to lift Temple to its first win in The American Athletic Conference Tournament after defeating Tulsa 78-52 on Saturday night.

When the Owls needed a spark on offense in the first half, they turned to Tanaya Atkinson.

The sophomore guard scored 16 of her 20 points and grabbed six of her nine rebounds in the first 17 minutes , sparking a 17-point halftime lead that helped Temple to a 78-52 victory against Tulsa in The American Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

“Tanaya really got us going,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “Right from the start, she was being aggressive in scoring and rebounding, and everyone fed off of that.”

With the victory, the third-seeded Owls (20-10, 13-5 The American) will meet No. 2 South Florida in the semifinals with a chance to reach their first conference tournament final since the 2009-10 season.

Temple began the game 0-for-5 from the field and fall into an early 6-3 hole.

After sophomore guard Donnaizha Fountain scored her first points on a midrange jumper to give Temple a 7-6 lead, the Owls went on an 8-0 to extend their lead to double digits in the first half.

The Owls began the second quarter on a 19-5 run that gave them a 36-15 advantage.

“It was just good energy and good vibes,” Atkinson said. “We were doing exactly what we were supposed to do. Everything was falling in the right place.”

The Owls’ five guard lineup fed off each other offensively, as Atkinson, Fountain, sophomore guard Alliya Butts, junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, and senior guard Erica Covile all finished in double-figures in scoring.

Butts and Fitzgerald scored 14 of Temple’s final 24 points of the game. Both players finished with 14 points each, and Fitzgerald added five assists.

“We always need guys to spark us and the last few games that has definitely happened,” Cardoza said. “With a lot of them, its confidence and they gain confidence by working at it.”

A trio of three-pointers from Butts, Fountain, and sophomore guard Khadijah Berger to begin the fourth quarter gave helped Temple jump out to a 9-0 run and extend its largest lead at 29 points.

The Owls shot 4-of-13 from beyond the perimeter, and finished 47.5 percent on the floor, finishing 29-of-61 from the field. The Owls outrebounded Tulsa 46 to 30, and outscored the Golden Hurricane 19-10 off of turnovers.

Mark McCormick can be reached at

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