Butts finds stroke to move Owls to WNIT second round

Sophomore guard Alliya Butts scored 24 points against Drexel on Friday night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center to advance the Owls to the second round of the WNIT, where they will play Quinnipiac University on Sunday.

At the start of the second half, sophomore Alliya Butts finally found her rhythm.

Coming into Friday night’s first round Women’s National Invitation Tournament game at Drexel , the 5-foot-4 guard was 10-for-53 from beyond the arc in her last eight games.

But on Friday night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center, Butts went 5-of-8 from 3-point range, including three straight makes in the third quarter, as Temple notched a 74-66 first round win.

When we came in at halftime we just said, ‘We got this,’ and we listened to the gameplan, and we pulled it out,” Butts said. “I kept attacking and helping my time find a way to win.”

Temple advanced to the WNIT semifinals last season. The Owls play at Quinnipiac University Sunday at 2 p.m. with the chance to continue another tournament run. Temple lost to Quinnipiac earlier this season 58-56 on Nov. 24, 2015.

“Last year, we gained a lot of experience playing in the postseason,” Cardoza said. “We have a majority of our players back, so we want to keep them on the court and growing. It’s only going to benefit us in the long run.”

Both teams came into the game sharing similar disappoint. The Owls, who were on the bubble for the final month of the regular season, were not selected to play in the NCAA Tournament. Drexel came into the game failing to clinch an automatic bid to the field of 64, falling to James Madison University in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game.

“We definitely were disappointed going into this game, but we had to see what was in front of us in the moment instead of looking back,” sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson said. “We still wanted to keep this season going.”

Temple gave itself an early lead in the first quarter, jumping out to a 16-10 advantage while the Dragons struggled to get a bucket, starting 3-for-16 from the floor.

In the second quarter, Drexel heated up, going 5-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc to spark a 20-6 run that tied the game,31-3, at halftime.

During the second quarter stretch, the Owls allowed Dragons junior forward Sarah Curran to go 3-for-3 from the perimeter. She scored 11 of her 24 points during that period.

“Our game plan was to defend the ball screens,” Cardoza said. “It just felt like we weren’t being aggressive as we could.”

The Owls, who rank second in the American Athletic Conference in 3-point field goal defense at 29.8 percent, allowed the Dragons to shoot 7-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half. On the other side, Temple shot worse than 17 percent from 3-point range.

“It was totally on our side of the floor,” Atkinson said of the Owls’ performance in the second quarter. “We weren’t being disciplined whatsoever. We weren’t helping ourselves on the offensive side of the floor.”

Sophomore guard Alliya Butts improved those statistics in the third quarter, scoring 14 of her 24 points in the period to give Temple a 55-52 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.

Temple finished the game shooting 25-of-50 from the field. The Owls’ went 7-of-22 from 3-point range and 17-of-26 from the free throw line.

“It’s always a confidence booster for our team when [Alliya’s] making shots,” Cardoza said. “In the second half also defensively, we tried to slow them down so we didn’t have to go on the other end and exhaust ourselves.”

Mark McCormick can be reached at mark.mccormick@temple.edu

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