Temple women’s basketball drops AAC opener

Graduate guard Mykia Jones scored a season-high 11 points, but leading scorer Tanaya Atkinson dealt with foul trouble in the Owls’ 76-46 road loss to Central Florida.

Senior guard Tanaya Atkinson (right) drives past University of South Carolina freshman forward LeLe Grissett during the Owls' 87-60 loss on Dec. 21 at the Liacouras Center. | KAIT MOORE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

For the first time this season, Temple has lost back-to-back games.

The Owls (8-5, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) lost, 76-46, to Central Florida (9-5, 1-0 The American) on Saturday at CFE Arena in Orlando, Florida, to open play in The American.

Temple has now lost three of its past four games. Two of its losses, defeats against Villanova on Dec. 10 and the University of South Carolina on Dec. 21, came against ranked teams.

Central Florida, which has won five of its past six games, was picked to finish fourth in The American in the conference’s preseason coaches poll. Temple was predicted to place third.

Senior guard Tanaya Atkinson entered the game leading the Owls in steals and assists and averaging 23.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. She scored a season-low six points and grabbed a season-low five rebounds.

After Saturday’s game, Atkinson now has 897 career rebounds, which ranks fourth in program history.

Atkinson hadn’t had a single-digit scoring performance all season. Her last one came on March 18 when she shot 3-for-14 from the field in the Owls’ NCAA Tournament loss to the University of Oregon.

Atkinson committed two fouls in a span of one minute, five seconds in the second quarter and sat the final 5:52 of the period. With nine seconds left in the third quarter, Atkinson committed her fourth foul. The Owls started the fourth quarter down by 22 points. Atkinson didn’t play in the final quarter and finished with a season-low 24 minutes.

Atkinson also had a game-high five turnovers. Temple had a negative 11 turnover margin and allowed 28 points off turnovers and 40 points in the paint.

Central Florida shot 49.2 percent from the field, taking almost exclusively 2-point shots. The Knights only attempted five 3-pointers.

Temple shot 16-for-46, which included freshman guard Emani Mayo’s 1-for-12 outing. Graduate guard Mykia Jones scored 11 points, a season-best. Freshman forward Mia Davis led Temple with 14 points.

Graduate guard Mykia Jones shoots during the Owls’ 87-60 loss to the University of South Carolina on Dec. 21 at the Liacouras Center. | KAIT MOORE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Four Knights finished in double figures. Senior guard Aliyah Gregory had a game-high 19 points, and redshirt-senior guard Zakiya Saunders scored 17 points to go with seven rebounds and a game-high five assists.

Temple’s conference home opener is on Jan. 7 against Southern Methodist (6-8, 0-1 The American) at noon.

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