Owls survive late rally by Houston

Feyonda Fitzgerald scored all 23 of her points in the second half to lead the Owls to a 75-66 victory against Houston.

For the first 20 minutes, the Owls depended on guards Tanaya Atkinson, Alliya Butts and Erica Covile to produce on the offensive side.

In the second half, the Owls’ offense relied on junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald.

Atkinson, Butts and Covile scored all of Temple’s 33 first-half points, while Fitzgerald added a game-high 23 points in the second half to secure a 75-66 victory Saturday afternoon against Houston at the Hofheinz Pavilion.

“It was a good test on the road,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We haven’t had a lot of success on the road, so this is a good road win for us.”

With six minutes, 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Cougars knocked down two 3-pointers to take their first lead over the Owls (8-4, 2-0 American Athletic Conference), 57-54, forcing Cardoza to take her first timeout of the second half.

“We were playing erratic,” Cardoza said. “We were playing like we’re down 15. We weren’t aggressive defensively, and they just took advantage of it.”

After the timeout, Temple responded with 3-pointers from Fitzgerald and Butts to regain the lead, 60-57. But Houston knocked its eighth 3-point shot to tie the game with 4:55 on the clock.

“Usually, they’re not a great three-point shooting team, but they were on fire and making a lot of shots,” Cardoza said. “The way it was going in the first quarter, you would have thought the result was going to be something different, but they weren’t going to roll over and die.”

Covile broke the tie on a jumper to pull the Owls ahead 62-60, totaling her 17th point. The senior’s 17 points Saturday was a season high.

Fitzgerald converted seven of her eight remaining free throws in the final 1:07 to help seal the Owls’ victory.

For the second-consecutive game, Temple led 11-0 early in the first quarter. Cardoza’s squad held Houston to 1-of-13 shooting in the first quarter to jump out to a 17-3 lead.

Temple saw its lead dwindle to one point, 19-18, when Houston rallied on a 12-1 second-quarter run.

Sophomore guard Alliya Butts responded for the Owls, scoring eight points to put Temple up 33-24 at halftime.

“We got off to an amazing start offensively and defensively,” Cardoza said. “We tried to play zone to keep them off balance. They play a lot like us, playing a lot of guards and looking to attack.”

Houston closed in on Temple after Covile picked up her fourth foul with 7:36 seconds remaining in the third quarter, forcing her to sit out until the final seven minutes of the game.

Atkinson left the game in the beginning of the third quarter with an injury and did not return. Cardoza said after the game that she does not know the severity of Atkinson’s injury.

“We were playing pretty much six guys in the second half,” Cardoza said. “With [Atkinson] being down and being in a lot of foul trouble, we had to be cautious of how we’re guarding so that we didn’t have to sit somebody else on the bench.”

Butts scored 17 points with no assists, while Atkinson went scoreless in the second half and finished with 10 points.

The Owls turned the ball over 16 times compared to 26 by Houston, who ranks at the bottom of the conference in turnover margins.

The last time Temple tallied a five-game winning streak was 2011-12, when the Owls reached the third round of the Division I Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

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

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