With two minutes, 19 seconds left in Saturday’s game, senior center Safiya Martin took a 3-point shot for the first time in her college career.
As the shot went up, the players on the Owls’ bench stood, ready to celebrate. As the ball bounced off the rim, they sat down disappointedly.
There was no real reason for the Owls to be upset, as they were winning by 24 points and went on to beat Cincinnati 88-64 in their Senior Day game.
“When I was coming down for shootaround this morning, Safiya and Khadijah [Berger] were talking about Safiya shooting a three, and I said, ‘Well, we better be up 50 if you are shooting threes,’” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “During that last time out, I looked at who was out there and I thought, ‘Alright, this is something that she wants to do, so let’s set up a play.’ We were all hoping that it went in for her, but just for her to be able to get if off, it was great.”
Temple (22-6, 12-3 American Athletic Conference) held the Bearcats to two points on two made free throws in the first quarter, setting a season record for fewest points allowed in a quarter. Temple, ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, also scored a season-high 88 points.
“This is a really good win for us today,” Cardoza said. “Coming off of a loss from UConn, you always want a really good bounce-back game, and I thought that first quarter was something really special. Holding them to zero field goals, that’s the way you want to play.”
Three Owls scored in double figures, led by junior guard Tanaya Atkinson’s career-high 30 points. She also grabbed 13 rebounds to get her ninth double-double of the season.
Junior guard Alliya Butts scored 23 points and added six assists and three steals. Butts hit a hot streak in the first half, going 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald also tallied a double-double with 18 points and 11 assists. With 4:03 left in the half, Fitzgerald set a Temple record when she assisted Butts’ third 3-pointer, becoming the first Owl to score at least 1,700 points and dish 600 or more assists.
“It was bittersweet,” Fitzgerald said. “It was great to know that I reached another milestone in my career, but it’s also emotional because this is my last home game for my college career.”
With 1:54 left in the fourth quarter, freshman guard Takora McIntyre replaced Fitzgerald, who received a standing ovation from the home crowd and hugs from her teammates and coaches before she took her seat. A few seconds later, the rest of the seniors took their seats, receiving a similar response from the crowd and team.
Temple’s final game is on the road against Central Florida on Monday.
“I mean obviously, they touched my heart,” said Cardoza, as she patted Fitzgerald on the head, both smiling. “I’m just happy we were able to hold it together because we’ll have time to cry about them later on.”
“I don’t think we were emotional because we’re just playing good basketball,” Cardoza said. “We know that there’s good things in store for us, so we just want to continue to play basketball and be around each other and keep winning.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CaptainAMAURAca. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.