By halftime of Sunday’s game against Tulane, junior guard Donnaizha Fountain had already scored 24 points. The next highest by anyone on the team was junior guard Tanaya Atkinson’s 11.
Fountain and Atkinson are the third and fourth leading scorers on the team. But they’re both capable of high-scoring nights, especially when the team’s top scorers aren’t hitting their shots.
Junior guard Alliya Butts averages 15.3 points, second to senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald’s 16.6 points. In the past three games against South Florida, Connecticut and Tulane, Fitzgerald has averaged seven points. She went scoreless in 21 minutes of play on Sunday.
When the two guards are on, scoring isn’t too big of an issue for the Owls (17-5, 7-2 American Athletic Conference). However, in the past couple games, Temple has found its highest scorers elsewhere. Fountain, Atkinson and junior guard Khadijah Berger have all provided a spark for Temple’s offense when needed.
“Team chemistry helps a lot and trusting each other is really big,” Fountain said. “I feel like that’s what is helping us right now. You know, if someone has a hot hand, we trust them enough to feed them the ball.”
This was clear in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against Tulane, as Fountain and Atkinson combined for all of Temple’s 25 points. In the second half, Butts scored 15 to help lead the Owls to a 76-50 victory.
“Those guys were hot and there was really no reason to force something,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “Just going with the hot hands. Donnaizha had the hot hand in the first quarter, so we feed her, then Tanaya got the hot hand and in the third quarter, Alliya caught it.”
With Sunday’s win, the Owls maintain third place in The American behind Connecticut and South Florida, which are both nationally ranked. Tulane, the fourth-place team in the conference, would have been a half-game ahead of Temple with a win.
“It’s a very good road win against a really good team and after those two losses against South Florida and UConn, we needed a bounce-back game,” Cardoza said. “This was a great one against a really good team.”
Temple faced South Florida on Jan. 29 and Connecticut on Wednesday and lost to both teams, snapping its 12-game winning streak.
In those two games, Temple also looked for scoring help from players other than Fitzgerald and Butts. In the 55-51 loss against South Florida, Fitzgerald and Butts led the team in scoring, but Berger finished the night with 11 and provided a boost when the Owls needed it most. Temple was down 14 in the fourth quarter when Berger subbed in and made a layup and two consecutive 3-pointers to bring the game within eight points.
Atkinson led the Owls with 20 points and 10 rebounds in their 97-69 loss to UConn, the top-ranked team in Division I.
“She’s one of those people that keeps balls alive and gets offensive rebounds to get us second and third chance opportunities,” Cardoza said. “When she’s playing at the four and now you have a post player that has to try to guard her, that’s really difficult.”
The variety of shooters on the court for Temple at any given time can prove difficult for opponents to defend. If they focus too much on one player, like Fitzgerald or Butts, they risk leaving another shooter open, like Fountain or Atkinson.
“It’s really good when you have a bunch of guys that can shoot and someone like Fey who can distribute the basketball and find guys who are knocking down shots,” Cardoza said.
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CaptainAMAURAca.