After two road losses, Temple returned to Philadelphia in need of a win.
With the University of Houston coming to the Liacouras Center on Saturday, the Owls (12-14, 8-5 American Athletic Conference) got their opportunity and defeated the Cougars (6-19, 1-13 The American), 72-60, to snap their two-game losing streak.
The Owls, who had five players in double figures, were led by freshman Alliya Butts’ 22 points. Butts, who is averaging 13 points per game on the year, has scored double-figure points in 10 straight games.
“She is one of those guys who if she is feeling it, she is going to shoot it,” coach Tonya Cardoza aid. “You also don’t want to put handcuffs on her because she is capable of scoring in bunches.”
Butts, who scored 10 of Temple’s first 14 points, helped the Owls jump out to an early 14-11 lead that the Owls would not relinquish.
For a team coming off two straight losses, Cardoza knew her team needed and would benefit from a good start to the game.
“I always feel like when we start off the game hot, a lot of guys feed off of that … but that is just who we are,” Cardoza said. “We started knocking down shots early and everyone started to feel good.”
The hot start for Temple played a part in the Owls’ 70 percent shooting average from the field and a 46-34 halftime lead.
But in the second half, the offensive rhythm wasn’t there, as Temple scored 24 second-half points and shot 32 percent from the floor.
“We didn’t make shots,” Cardoza said of the team’s latter half. “It’s as simple as that. I felt like we got the same opportunities, but we just weren’t knocking them down.”
The Owls were also able to make their 3-pointers, which they were unable to do in the previous two games. The Owls hit seven 3-pointers Saturday, whereas in the two previous games combined, the Owls hit eight shots from long range.
“I felt like our comeback today, being at home, I felt that we played with some passion, some emotion and guys were knocking down shots,” Cardoza said. “That’s always a confidence booster.
Junior Erica Covile also saw a different team than the one that lost three of its previous four games.
“I noticed that we had more passion and intensity,” Covile said. “We talked more and played more aggressive.”
The Owls also got a “bonus” from sophomore Safiya Martin, who scored 10 points and added six rebounds. Martin, who came into the game averaging three points and four rebounds per game, earned her second straight start after coming off the bench for the previous nine games.
“I think Safiya played with some confidence,” Cardoza said. “Early on she missed a couple shots and you could see her start hanging her head, but her teammates kept feeding her the ball and she made some shots for us.”
Alliya Butts scored or assisted on half of Temple’s 18 first-half field goals … The Owls’ 69.2 percent shooting in the first half came 0.4 percent away from tying a Liacouras record set in 2006. The Owls’ 58.3 percent shooting from 3-point range in the half was also a season high, as was their 51 percent shooting average for the game.
Michael Guise can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.