The Owls weren’t even sure if they were going to playing in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
A first-round loss to East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference tournament could have spelled the end of their season, before Temple snagged an invitation to the WNIT. In the Owls’ opening contest of the tournament on Thursday night, they extended their season for at least one more game, topping Marist, 67-54.
“When we got the news [of getting into the tournament], we were excited,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We made sure to talk about, ‘Let’s show how appreciative we are to be here.’ Are we going to be one and done, or are we going to try to stick around and show we’re worthy of this invite? I felt like our guys definitely did that [Thursday].”
The Owls jumped ahead early with an 8-0 run to start the game. Marist took the lead midway through the first half, but Temple came right back and regained control soon after.
Although the hosting Red Foxes came close, Cardoza’s squad never relinquished the lead for the remainder of the game.
Temple was led by junior Erica Covile and freshman Tanaya Atkinson. The two guards combined for 37 points, hitting 14 of their 24 attempts from the field.
While Cardoza was impressed by the duo’s play at the offensive end of the floor, it was what the pair did on the other side of the ball that was more important to the team’s success, she said.
“They both played awesome,” Cardoza said. “They had to guard their two better players, so for them to be able to score…and then outscore their guys is a credit to them. They paid attention to the game plan. They were focused.”
The pair weren’t the only two to play well on the defensive end of the court. The Owls only forced 11 turnovers, but their team defense forced Marist to take contested shots.
Marist came into the game shooting better than 40 percent from the field and scoring more than 63 points per game. Temple held the Red Foxes to 37.3 percent shooting and nine points below their season average.
“Our defensive pressure disrupted them,” Cardoza said. “Our game plan was to get up in their face and make it difficult to see open guys.”
The win set up a second-round meeting with Big 5 rival Penn at the Palestra on Sunday. Temple fell to the Quakers in a non-conference game earlier this season by a score of 52-50.
Senior guard Tyonna Williams tied the school record for most 3-point shots made in the game. She will have a chance to take sole possession of the record on Sunday … The Owls put together a solid performance from the line. The team made 16 of its 19 attempts from the charity stripe.
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.