As Temple came to practice Tuesday at the Women’s Basketball Practice Facility on the third floor of Pearson McGonigle Hall, defense was on its mind.
Temple defeated Villanova 61-55 for the first time in five seasons, giving Temple its second Big 5 win of the year. After giving up a 14-point lead to Saint Joseph’s in a 70-67 loss Sunday, coach Tonya Cardoza stressed discipline and defense for the Owls.
“It’s been the same thing after last three games,” Cardoza said. “It’s about discipline and paying attention to the game plan and even though [Villanova] got lay ups, we paid attention to the game plan today. I felt like the last couple days in practice our mindset was really good. We really needed that win because it would have been devastating after the way we practiced.”
As the Temple starting lineup made its way to the floor against Villanova, junior center Safiya Martin sat on the bench. Without a center, the tallest player for the Owls was senior guard Erica Covile at 6-foot-1 inch.
“It is hard to defend them when you play a big, and we have tried to play a big in the past,” Cardoza said. “It is hard for post players to play Villanova, so we knew we had to go smaller.”
Cardoza has stressed rebounding throughout the season as Temple’s opponents outrebounded the Owls in three of their first six games. In Temple’s third win of the season, it outrebounded the Wildcats 50-37.
Villanova shot 17 percent as Temple led Villanova 21-7 after the first quarter. In the second quarter, Temple extended the lead with a 12-0 run, leading the Wildcats 31-12 with 4:50 remaining in the second quarter.
“That run energized our team because someone knocks down a shot, someone gets an offensive rebound put back, our players thrive off of that,” Cardoza said. “In the second half, we were kind of stagnant because we didn’t push as hard.”
Junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald finished with 23 points and three rebounds.
With eight players taking the court, Georgia Tech transfer Donnaizha Fountain started for the first time of the season. The sophomore guard earned a Temple career-high 10 points and tied her career high in rebounding with nine.
“This game makes me feel a little more comfortable, not down on myself and it’s about giving yourself up to your team,” Fountain said. “You have to do it for your team.”
Although Villanova trailed 40-20 at the half, the Wildcats scored 35 points in the second half. Temple scored 21 points in the second half, shooting 15.6 percent.
Covile finished the night with 10 points and 13 rebounds, earning her 10th double-double of her career. Although Temple struggled in the second half, Covile said the team prepared to grind out a win.
“One thing I was telling the team was we are on a three-game losing streak, and we’ve never beaten Villanova since I’ve been here,” Covile said. “If we are disciplined, we will come out with the win.”
Cardoza and the Owls resume play Sunday when they travel to Tallahassee, Florida to take on No. 13 Florida State University. Although Temple ended a defensive slump, Cardoza expects more.
“We have to find that extra energy, that extra boost,” Cardoza said. “Now, we have to find ways to have two really good halves.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at email@example.com.