In the first half, Tonya Cardoza felt her team was asleep.
The Owls, who struggled to find a rhythm in the first half, shot 35 percent from the field and 16 percent from 3-point range, while allowing Cincinnati to shoot 50 percent. Despite all of that, the Owls held a four-point lead at the half.
But in the second half, the Owls (9-11, 5-2 American Athletic Conference) woke up on the back of junior Erica Covile.
Cardoza looked to Covile, who finished the game with 14 points and six rebounds, to help the team wake up.
With Covile’s boost, the Owls responded with a 16-4 run to open the second half on their way to an 83-50 defeat of Cincinnati.
“In the second half, Erica really got us going and from there we really ran away with it,” Cardoza said.
Cardoza said Covile wasn’t being aggressive enough in the first half and the team’s performance was affected. At halftime, Cardoza told the junior forward it was time for her to start playing.
“Basically I put it on Erica … I felt like she way being really passive,” Cardoza said. “I felt like they weren’t guarding her and she should be able to dominate. I definitely think she took it to heart.”
Another spark for the Owls was sophomore Taylor Robinson, as the center netted 14 points off the bench. Cardoza understands the benefit of Robinson’s ability to score in the paint.
“When she plays like that our team really feeds off that and she gives them a lot of confidence,” Cardoza said.
For Robinson, it was her first game action since Jan. 11 against South Florida. Cardoza said Robinson’s playing time depends on her effort on the practice court.
“Taylor decides how many minutes she actually gets to play and how she performs in practice,” Cardoza said. “The last couple of days she has been better.”
Spending the previous two contests rooted to the bench motivated Robinson, as she said she wanted to be on the court with her teammates – not on the sideline.
“Just watching my teammates play without me made me want to get out there and help out, because I’m just sitting on the bench cheering for them when I could be in the game,” Robinson said.
The Owls had four players in double figures and shot 49 percent from the field. The Owls also scored 54 points in the paint and had 22 second-chance points. Freshman Tanaya Atkinson said the offensive balance makes everything run smoothly.
“It makes everything way easier because the pressure is not on one person,” Atkinson said. “It’s really a team effort and it’s way more fun.”
Along with the offense, the defense was firing on all cylinders.
The Owls forced 20 turnovers and totaled a season-high 14 steals. The Owls game plan was to pressure Cincinnati’s guards, in order to make it harder for the guards to pass the ball to Marley Hill – the Bearcats’ lone forward.
“We felt that if we pressured them, we could wear them out,” Cardoza said. “More so just try to disrupt their offense. We know that Marley Hill is a tough matchup. We had to do our best to not let her get into position. So we had to put more pressure on the ball handlers.”
Freshman Alliya Butts has now score in double figures in five or last six games … The team’s 49.3 percent shooting from the field is a season high … Erica Covile tied a career high with five assists … The Owls’ 33-point margin is a season high, along with their 83 points scored.
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.