Before tipoff against the University of Memphis, Temple University women’s basketball honored its two players who won’t return: senior guard Nicolette Mayo and graduate student guard Jada Graves.
The game that followed was all Temple as junior forward Alexa Williamson and freshman guard Jasha Clinton took over and led the Owls (10-10, 10-7 The American Athletic Conference) to a 89-66 win over the Tigers (4-13, 2-10 The American) on Tuesday afternoon.
Williamson dominated the post and scored a career-high 29 points and four steals. She scored on more than 69 percent of her shot attempts from the field while Clinton efficiently ran the offense with her precise passing.
“I think our guards were doing a really good job with bringing the ball up the floor and getting me open and seeing me when I was open,” Williamson said.
Clinton scored 21 points and collected a career-best 11 assists. Hers is the first points and assists double-double recorded since former guard Feyonda Fitzgerald scored 18 points and recorded 11 assists on Feb. 25, 2017, against Cincinnati.
The Owls showed confidence they could score despite senior forward Mia Davis only scoring nine points. Senior guard Emani Mayo had her best game of the season, dishing out 14 points, four assists and three steals.
Temple’s defense was especially active, forcing 15 steals and 20 turnovers. Memphis struggled to score in the first half, shooting 34 percent from the field and making just 11 shots.
Owls head coach Tonya Cardoza was thrilled with the team’s defense, she said.
“We really emphasize trying to take the ball out of the guards’ hands and trapping them and trying to be disruptive so that they can’t really look inside,” Cardoza said. “I thought our effort was really good and I thought we rotated really well to get steals.”
Scoring 89 points was important for the Owls because they are looking to find an offensive rhythm before next week’s American Athletic Conference Tournament.
In their last two games, the Owls scored just 47 and 37 points, respectively, in losses to South Florida (15-2, 12-1 The American) on Feb. 24 and Central Florida (13-3, 11-1 The American) on Feb. 27.
Graves played 21 minutes off the bench and scored five points while Nicolette Mayo, a captain who doesn’t see much playing time, played six fourth-quarter minutes and made a 3-point shot from the left corner that had all her teammates and coaches up celebrating.
Cardoza will miss Nicolette Mayo so much that she offered to pay for her graduate school to become a graduate coaching assistant, Cardoza said.
“I’m just so happy for her, and I’m hoping she comes back next year, but just in a different role,” Cardoza said. “I’ve enjoyed just having her in practice and having her around. She just brings a smile to my face because she’s everything that a coach would ever dream of.”
The Owls will host Memphis once again on March 4 at noon in their regular season finale.