Owls enter third round of WNIT

The team will play Ohio on Thursday at McGonigle Hall.

The women’s basketball team huddles up at Daskalakis Athletic Center on Friday. The team defeated Drexel 74-66. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN TTN

Tonya Cardoza feels comfortable playing in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

After defeating Quinnipiac University 64-62 on Sunday to advance to the third round of the postseason tournament, the eight-year coach owns an 8-2 record in three appearances, including a trip to the WNIT semifinals last year.

“We still have something to be playing for,” Cardoza said. “We are just taking it one game at a time.”

In the first two rounds of the WNIT, Temple’s starters have carried the offensive load, scoring all but five points in both contests. In both wins, Temple has only had five points come from the bench.

“We all hang out just about every day, so I think it helps us out there on the court,” junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald said. “We treat each other like sisters, and the chemistry we have makes it even easier in games for us. We just want to keep our season going.”

In Friday’s 74-66 win against Drexel University, sophomore guard Alliya Butts scored 24 points, including 14 in the third quarter.

On Sunday, Fitzgerald had 23 points in the team’s win against the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season champions despite shooting 8-of-22 from the floor.

Fitzgerald has played all 80 minutes in Temple’s two WNIT wins. Butts has totaled 78 minutes of playing time in the contests.

“It’s been two straight games where Feyonda and Alliya have played just about every single minute,” Cardoza said. “We need to give them a breather. We have to find a way to get more guys in the game.”

Donnaizha Fountain drives to the basket in the team’s win on against Drexel. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN TTN
Donnaizha Fountain drives to the basket in the team’s win on against Drexel. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN TTN

In the WNIT wins against the Dragons and Bobcats, sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson and senior guard Erica Covile combined to pull down 43 rebounds, 51.2 percent of the Owls’ total rebounds.

During the last two weeks of practice, Atkinson said she spent extra hours inside the gym, hoping to improve her performance for the team’s postseason run.

“It’s showing on the defensive end and how I’m rebounding,” Atkinson said. “We’re definitely ready. We can’t talk about what we do going into games. We just got to show it.”

Temple plays Ohio University at McGonigle Hall on Thursday at 7 p.m., where they hope to book a trip to the quarterfinals.

The third round matchup will be the first home game for the Owls in the tournament thus far. Last season, Temple hosted one of its five WNIT games.

“It’s great because we actually get the day off tomorrow and refocus because we get to go to class and don’t have to worry about traveling,” Cardoza said following the team’s win. “That’s always a bonus when you can just stay home and play in front of your fans. Obviously, I am excited we got two wins on the road because that is always a confidence booster.”

If the Owls advance, they will meet the winner of today’s matchup between the University of Michigan and the University of San Diego, but Cardoza doesn’t want her team to get ahead of themselves.

“Thursday is an important game at home,” Cardoza said. “We are just focusing on the team in front of us. We can rest our bodies, but our minds have to be sharp.”

Mark McCormick can be reached at mark.mccormick@temple.edu or on Twitter @MarkJMcCormick.

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