Nearly a month ago, Temple walked off the court following its first American Athletic Conference loss of the season to Southern Methodist, a game where the Owls shot 12-of-27 from the foul line.
Wednesday, Temple(13-8, 8-2 The American) defeated the Mustangs 55-35 for their third-straight victory, 55-35, at the Liacouras Center, moving them to a tie for second in The American with South Florida.
“The most important thing is that you’re growing, and you’re getting better,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We’re better now than we were at the beginning of November.”
When Temple fell to the Mustangs 69-67 on Jan. 5, the Owls shot 7-for-26 from three-point range and blew an early 12-point lead in the first quarter.
In their second meeting this season, the Owls didn’t get to the free-throw line in the first half, but they finished 7-of-8 from the foul line on Wednesday.
“Last time we played them, we shot horrible from the free-throw line,” Cardoza said. “We didn’t get there a lot today. But when we did, we converted them.”
The Mustangs turned the ball over 12 times in the first 10 minutes of the game, helping Temple score 10 of its first 14 points off Southern Methodist’s mistakes.
Southern Methodist had 25 turnovers in its first meeting and added 28 Wednesday. The Owls have forced 20 or more turnovers in their last three games.
“We talk about it all time to learn from our mistakes,” Cardoza said. “Right now, they’re getting in engraved in their head because we’re good when we play defense.”
Junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald and sophomore guards Alliya Butts and Donnaizha Fountain each scored six points in the first half to build a 30-17 lead at halftime.
“I was actually looking forward to this game today,” Fountain said of the atmosphere and the announced crowd of 2,846. “It was awesome to see. I liked the intensity.”
Cardoza, who has stressed getting off to a better start coming out of the second half, had the Owls start the second half on a 13-4 run, extending their lead to 43-21.
While the Owls scored six points in the fourth quarter, they held a 28-point lead with four minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter after freshman Deja Reynolds scored her eighth-career point off a jumper in the right corner to go up 53-25.
Temple held Southern Methodist to 12-of-50 from the field and 18 percent from the 3-point line. The Owls finished 30.3 percent from the floor.
“We didn’t shoot a high percentage, but we stopped them from scoring,” Cardoza said. “We know as a group now that if we want to be good, we have to play with a lot of passion and a lot of intensity.”
The Owls had five players with six rebounds or more, outrebounding the Mustangs 54-39, their highest mark all season.
Senior guard Erica Covile had 13 points and 10 rebounds, earning her second double-double in the past three games.
“I’ve just been going out there and not thinking about messing up,” Covile said. “I’ve just been playing harder and doing whatever for my team.”
Mark McCormick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MarkJMcCormick.