The recent trend continues for the Owls.
“We don’t want to keep going back and forth,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “But as long as you can get that win, you’re happy. You don’t ever want to lose two in a row either”.
For the fifth time this season, Temple have avoided consecutive losses, defeating Central Florida 75-54 in McGonigle Hall on Saturday.
After struggling in a loss against No. 7 Louisville on Wednesday, Temple (8-5, 2-1) recorded a season high 23 assists in their second American Athletic Conference victory of the year. UCF (8-6, 1-2) has now lost two consecutive conference games.
Junior guard Tyonna Williams led the Owls offense with 19 points, coming from seven of nine shooting. Williams shot five of six from three point range and she also added four assists. Williams’ 19 points is the most points she has scored since the November 19 game against Auburn when she scored a career-high 29 points.
“It just so happened that Tyonna was looking for her offense a little more and just looking to shoot,” Cardoza said. “There’s shots, that in the past, she’s passed up and we continue to talk to her about shooting the basketball. I knew today, the way that they would play us, she would have to step up and make some shots for us”.
Including Williams, four Temple starters scored in double figures. Fifth-year senior Shi-Heria Shipp registered a double-double, recording 13 points and 10 rebounds, while senior forward Natasha Thames added 14 points.
For the sixth consecutive game, sophomore guard Erica Covile posted double digits, scoring 10 points on four of six shooting.
Freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald failed to reach double figures for the second consecutive game, scoring six points, but registered six assists on the night. Off the bench, redshirt-sophomore Monaye Merritt recorded a game-high and career-high nine assists.
UCF sophomore guard Briahanna Jackson, who scored 28 points against #1 Connecticut in her previous game, recorded 10 points, four assists, and four rebounds. Senior forward Sara Djassi and freshman guard Zykira Lewis scored 12 and 13 points respectively.
“We knew that they had a really good player in Jackson and we knew we had to limit her touches,” Cardoza said. “I thought Tyonna did a great job of containing her, but more importantly, I thought our post players did a good job of showing on ball screens. It was definitely a team effort”.
After a Lewis three pointer at the 17:36 mark, the Knights held an early 8-1 lead, but a Williams three point shot, seconds later, led to a 6-2 run by the Owls, which brought Temple within two. Through the next 12 minutes of play, UCF held the advantage, leading Temple by as many as six points.
With 5:13 remaining in the half, and UCF leading 21-18, Merritt drained two free throws, bringing the Owls within one point and beginning what would be the run that gave the Owls’ their first lead of the game.
Following Merritt’s free throws and a turnover by UCF, Shipp was on the receiving end of a Merritt assist that led to the lead-changing basket. With Temple ahead 22-21, for its first lead of the night, two consecutive UCF possessions ended in Shipp steals that turned into transition layups. Riding a 6-0 run, Temple continued to add points after Fitzgerald picked off an inbounds pass and scored from near the rim to give the Owls a 28-21 lead with 4:02 remaining in the first half.
A jumper by UCF broke the unanswered Owls scores, but Thames free throws and a Williams transition lay in, off of another Shipp steal, gave Temple a 14-2 run and a 32-23 lead with 1:21 remaining in the half.
Djassi then halted the run with a successful three point attempt as the Knights went on to outscore Temple 8-2 for the remainder of the period, making it a 34-28 Temple advantage at halftime.
In the second period, Temple would pull away and extend its lead to double figures. Beginning with back-to-back three point field goals by Williams, Temple started the second half scoring 10 unanswered points, en route to the Owls outscoring the Knights 15-2 in the opening seven minutes of the period.
With 13:20 remaining in the game, Temple led UCF 49-30 and would not surrender their double-digit lead for the remainder of regulation.
The Knights were unable to close the deficit to smaller than 14 points and Temple’s biggest lead was 24 with 5:39 left in the game. In the second period, as a team, UCF shot 9 of 40 from the field while Temple shot 16 of 29.
“We want to have more consistency where we’re winning more games in a row,” Cardoza said. “We haven’t won multiple games since November. So, hopefully that streak ends”.
Brien Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @BErick1123.