Owls pull out fourth-quarter nailbiter

Temple led by 12 at the end of the third quarter but Central Florida closed the gap.

Graduate forward Lena Niang attempts to shoot during the Owls' game against UCF at McGonigle Hall on Jan. 29. | NEIL GOLDENTHAL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University women’s basketball (13-8, 5-3 The American Athletic Conference) held off Central Florida (11-8, 3-4 The AAC) by a score of 67-65 Wednesday night. 

This was the Owls’ fourth win of the season won by a single basket. Their last five games have been decided by five points or fewer. 

Coach Tonya Cardoza has been impressed with Temple’s ability to win close games. 

“Last year we weren’t winning those games,” Cardoza said. “They’re learning how to win and they enjoy it now, and they enjoy playing with each other.”

The Owls got key contributions from two of its guards—sophomore Marissa Mackins and redshirt-sophomore Ashley Jones—as well as graduate student forward Lena Niang who bolstered the Owls’ score as junior forward Mia Davis struggled.

Mackins was the leading scorer for the Owls with 22 points, which included going 5-of-11 from beyond the arc. Four of her three-pointers came in the third quarter, giving the Owls’ offense a boost coming out of halftime. 

“I don’t ever look for my shot,” Mackins said. “But if it falls, it falls and I just keep shooting.”

While Davis scored just 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field, she was able to set up easy baskets for Niang off backdoor cuts.  

“They were up on Davis and I just had to cut and we worked on that in scout this morning, we just had to execute,” Niang said. 

The Owls having other offensive options to help out Davis has been something the team has focused on all year, Cardoza said. 

“[Mackins] knocking down shots, [Niang] moving without the basketball,” Cardoza said. “That’s the way we help [Davis] out so that she doesn’t have to be the savior every night.”

This was a game the Owls could have put away earlier. Thanks to Mackins’ hot shooting in the third quarter, Temple had pushed the lead out to 12. 

The Knights’ defense brought them back in the game. They had entered the game with a +3.5 turnover ratio and took the ball away from the Owls multiple times. 

Temple must be more careful with the basketball, Cardoza said. The Owls committed 18 turnovers in the game.

“We need to be smarter and not get into trap areas with the basketball,” Cardoza said. 

Despite losing the turnover battle, Temple won the rebounding battle and made their free throws, which were crucial aspects in a close game. 

The Owls will look to continue this play when they take on Wichita State (11-10, 3-5 The AAC) on Feb. 5 at McGonigle Hall.

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