From opening tip to the buzzer, Temple never trailed in an 81-58 win over Georgetown in the opening game of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge Friday night.
The Owls (2-1), coming off an overtime loss to city rival Saint Joseph’s last Tuesday, set the tone early on Friday, jumping on the Hoyas and taking a 14-5 lead.
Georgetown would get within one point with an 8-0 run at the 12-minute mark, but that is as close as the Hoyas would get.
“Our players felt really bad that they let one slip away [against St. Joe’s] . . . and they talked about that not happening again and I think the approach to today’s game was really great,” coach Tonya Cardoza said.
The Owls would pull away with help from guards Feyonda Fitzgerald and Tyonna Williams. The pair scored 24 of the team’s 43 first-half points, including 13 straight and 16 out of 18 in a five-minute span.
“Tyonna definitely gave us that that boost by knocking down open shots early for us,” Cardoza said. “She’s been in a little bit of a slump her first two games and I know how important it was for her to play well and she really stepped up for us.”
After Georgetown got within 10 points with just under four minutes left in the first half, senior guard Erica Covile scored eight straight for the Owls to help take a 43-32 lead into halftime. The 6-foot-1-inch guard finished the game with her first double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
In the second half, the Owls pushed their 10-point halftime lead to 22-point margin with just under 11 minutes left. Freshman guard Alliya Butts scored nine of her 11 points in the second half while freshman guard Tanaya Atkinson scored 10 of her 15 points in the final period.
“I think we are just really unselfish,” Cardoza said. “We take care of the basketball … there is no one guy that feels like they have to dominate the basketball and that’s what made us a better team right now.”
For Temple, this game started with defense. The Owls held the high-scoring Hoyas to 14 points below their season average and forced 18 turnovers. The Owls also held Georgetown to 33 percent shooting from the field and 23 percent from 3-point range. The Hoyas entered the contest shooting nearly 40 percent from the field.
“We tried to limit what their players like to do,” Cardoza said. “We wanted to take them out of their comfort zone and I thought of guys did a really good job of helping each other out.”
The Owls also held Georgetown’s leading scorer, junior forward Dominique Vitalis to 10 points, five below her season average. The Owls were also able to limit 6-foot-1 freshman guard Dorothy Adomako, the team’s leading rebounder, to six rebounds, five below her season average of 11.
Temple outrebounded the Hoyas 51-39, and had 12 more offensive rebounds. Coming into the game, the Owls were averaging 46 rebounds per game and outrebounding their opponents by five per game.
“I felt that we were the aggressors on the offensive boards,” Cardoza said. “They had the size advantage, we were undersized … we were crashing the offensive boards and that is something that [Georgetown] does really well and we took it to them.”
Despite being undersized, the Owls went inside and looked for easy baskets. The Owls scored 38 points in the paint, compared to Georgetown’s 22. Cardoza credits that to two guards — Covile and Atkinson.
“I think it started with [Covile],” Cardoza said. “She was really aggressive on the backboards. We were looking to get inside to her and [Atkinson] … those guys are going to have to be great offensive rebounders for us because we are so small and we need to give ourselves another opportunity.
Up next for the Owls is a matchup against Kansas. This will be the first time the two schools meet in the history of the programs. Kansas lost to Alabama, 85-80, in its tournament opener.
Michael Guise can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.