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Owls’ offense shines in win

Sophomore guard Alliya Butts celebrates with sophomore guard Khadijah Berger during the Owls’ 97-91 win against Florida Friday. | Margo Reed TTN

When Temple struggled on offense last year, the squad turned to then-freshman guard Alliya Butts or then-junior guard Erica Covile to make a play.

This year, with 14 players on the roster, the Owls can rely on any of their teammates to make a bucket.

“We might not be able to score sometimes, and that’s going to happen, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re not allowing teams to score as well,” coach Tonya Cardoza said following the Owls season-opening 97-91 win against the University of Florida. “I feel like there is a lot of games we play [at the Liacouras Center] where we shoot the ball well.”

In the win against Florida Friday night at the Liacouras Center, Temple showed it was a different team  offensively.

Junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald scored a career-high 32 points, while Butts and sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson contributed 20 points each. During the Owls’ 18-2 run against Florida in the second quarter, Butts and Fitzgerald scored 15 of the team’s 18 points.

“When Feyonda and Alliya are shooting the ball like that, it’s just tough for anyone to guard,” Cardoza said. “I think they are the two quickest people on the court every single game, and no one should be able to press us with those two handling the ball.”

Fitzgerald, who started 12 of the team’s 37 games last season, averaged 11.1 points per game, the third highest on the team last season.

After her career night against the Gators, the junior said she expects her offensive production to increase this season.

“I had to work on my mid-range,” Fitzgerald said on practicing over the offseason. “That is my bread and butter. When I’m at the spot, and I’m open, I just shoot it.”

During the 2014-15 season, Temple ranked No. 62 out of 343 Division I teams in 3-point field goal percentage and second among teams in the American Athletic Conference. The Owls ranked No. 128 in Division I in points per game.

Atkinson, who started all 37 games as a freshman and averaged 10.6 points per game last year, is hoping to bring more energy on the court.

“I get yelled at for celebrating a little bit,” Atkinson said. “So when one person gets pumped up, we all get pumped up.”

Friday’s win marked the first time the Owls eclipsed 90 points since a 95-48 win against the University of Rhode Island Jan. 14, 2009 in Cardoza’s first season as coach.

Since taking over in the 2008-09 season, Cardoza has led the Owls to 36-11 record at the Liacouras Center.

“Maybe it’s something in this building,” Cardoza said. “But you don’t want to give up 90 points unless you are scoring 90-plus. Hopefully that will be the last time we give up 90 points to a team.”

When the Owls return Wednesday for their second game against La Salle, they aim to continue their early shooting success and have more players on the bench provide scoring options to ease the load on the starters.

“Every game we approach, we have to approach it like it is our last game, and it is the most important game on our schedule,” Cardoza said. “We have 29 regular season games, and not one of them is more important than the next.”

Mark McCormick can be reached at

Video shot by David Petrozziello and edited by Sean Brown.

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