Owls top Oakland

After five games played to date in their young season, the Owls have four wins to their credit in an all-around positive start as well as a new team motto.

“We have this motto now that the second half is our half,” junior guard Tyonna Williams said.

After taking a 10-point lead into the break, the Owls maintained their affinity with the latter playing period as the team gradually pulled away from the University of Oakland with solid play on both sides of the ball in an eventual 81-57 defeat of the Golden Grizzlies at McGonigle Hall Saturday afternoon.

Temple (4-1) outscored Oakland (1-6) 42-28 in the half and pulled away with plenty of time left on the clock.

“At halftime, we go in and we don’t point the finger at anybody,” Williams said. “If one person isn’t playing well, they own up to it and we talk about what needs to be done. We come out in the second half and it’s a new life we have.”

After junior guard Tyonna Williams kicked off the afternoon with a 3-point bucket in Temple’s first possession, an early Owls 6-0 run put Temple out in front for good with an 11-5 lead after the game’s first three minutes.

Temple established an effective offensive attack from the early going, shooting 50 percent (17-for-34) in a first half that saw senior Shi-Heria Shipp chip in 10 of her 18 points as well as a resurgent Natasha Thames.

The senior forward proved her 15-minute, two-rebound performance against Michigan St. on Tuesday was a one-time deal as the senior took control down low early with 13 points and five rebounds in the first half.

The senior led the Owls with a career-high 21 points to go along with her nine rebounds on the afternoon, falling one short of the double-double.

“The last two games I’ve been in foul trouble and I think that kind of took me away from being aggressive from offense and defense and I wasn’t focused,” Thames said. “Today I let those two games go and just felt like ‘Hey my team needs me to be smart and to be a leader.’ My approach today was totally different.”

The Owls took control in the second half out of the gate with a 15-7 run that broke the game open and gave Temple an 18-point lead. Temple extended the lead throughout the half, at one point holding a 26-point advantage.

In each of their four wins, the Owls have outscored their opponents significantly in the second half.

“I wish I knew [why],” coach Tonya Cardoza said, when asked about her team’s knack of second half resurgence. “I wish I knew and I would find a way how to do it in the first half. Again whatever they’re talking about in the locker room before [the coaches] even get there, it’s been something that’s been completely different. It’s not blaming someone or something someone did, it’s all positive and making sure they let the first half go and they’re talking about what they need to do in the second half to be better. It’s always ‘The first half is over. We’re focused on the second half and we have to make adjustments.’ That’s always the mindset and we do a good job in doing that.”

Freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald was part of the success in the second half when she hit 17 of her 19 points in the period. After a career-high 24 points in the Owls’ 75-70 loss to Michigan St. on Tuesday, Fitzgerald was told to let her two-point first half performance go and start anew for the next 20 minutes.

“When I was on the bench, coach kept saying change my face and let that first half go and she just told me play defense and go out there and work out. Tyonna told me to let it go too.

“The one thing with [Fitzgerald] is sometimes because we expect a lot from her, we forget that she’s a freshman and she’s going to make freshman mistakes. Having her be able to work through them and fight through them and try to figure them out, and again she’s in a great position because she always has somebody else on the floor who knows exactly what she’s going through and is able to give her a boost of confidence and say some words of encouragement to her.”

Senior guard Shi-Heria Shipp chipped in 18 points as Temple shot 50.7 percent (34-for-67) from the floor.

Sophomore guard Erica Covile led Temple with 10 rebounds as the Owls out-boarded an opponent for the first time this season with a 41-33 advantage.

The Owls will get set for its second Big 5 contest of the season when they host Saint Joseph’s Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

Andrew Parent can be reached at andrew.parent@temple.edu or on Twitter @daParent93.

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