Temple women’s basketball falls to UNC and Creighton in Thanksgiving Cancun Challenge

The Owls struggled to score from beyond the arc and put themselves in foul trouble.

Senior center Shannen Atkinson dribbles the ball during the Owls' game against Duquesne on Nov. 8. | NICK DAVIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple women’s basketball (4-4, 0-1 The American Athletic Conference) lost both of its games at the Cancun Challenge, falling 71-58 to the University of North Carolina (6-0) on Thursday and 69-59 to Creighton University (6-1) on Friday. Both games took place at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Cancun, Mexico.

Senior forward Shannen Atkinson collected a double-double in the game against Creighton with 11 points and 11 rebounds. She scored 21 total points and grabbed 19 rebounds over the two games, earning her All-Tournament honors and praise from coach Tonya Cardoza.

“Shannen was a bright spot throughout the tournament,” Cardoza said. “Defensively, she was a presence. She moved around a lot on defense and clogged up the lane. And on the other end, she was able to score and help us out.”

The Owls struggled to contain North Carolina’s shooting in Thursday’s game, allowing the Tar Heels to shoot 43.8 percent on three-point shots. However, they held Creighton’s three-point shooting to just 28.6 percent on three-point shots in the second game.

“We gave up a few wide-open three-point shots in the first quarter and they had players with post presence in North Carolina so we had to worry about that,” Cardoza said. “Creighton played a different type of offense, where they play with lots of motion. They didn’t have a post player. We needed to make sure we could communicate and be disciplined to defend them. We just ran out of gas at the end.”

A common struggle throughout both games was the Owls’ own shooting woes. They shot only 10 percent on three-point shots against North Carolina and 25 percent against Creighton, bringing their three-point shooting percentage for the season down to 30.5 percent.

“Sometimes the three-point shots just don’t fall,” Cardoza said. “We’re not going to stop taking those shots and I’m not worried about our shooting. It just didn’t go our way.”

Junior forward Mia Davis contributed 18 points against Creighton after failing to score more than 10 points against North Carolina. That was the first game of the season in which Davis scored fewer than 18 points. 

Davis got into foul trouble against North Carolina with two fouls in the first quarter. She only played for 16 minutes. Davis fouled out, as did Atkinson and senior forward Shantay Taylor. 

Freshman guard Asonah Alexander led Temple with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists against North Carolina, but struggled against Creighton, scoring only two points and fouling out in the fourth quarter. 

“[Alexander] was being very aggressive,” Cardoza said. “She’s a facilitator and was looking to score against North Carolina instead of just passing first, but she did both of those things very well.”

With these two games, the Owls fell to 4-4 on the season and have now completed over 25 percent of their schedule. In all of their wins so far, the Owls have scored more than 70 points and shot no worse than 33 percent on three-point field goals and 43 percent from the field. In their losses, they have scored under 63 and have shot no better than 27 percent from three-point field goals and 42 percent overall. 

“I’m looking for more improvement in the month of December,” Cardoza said. “I want our team to be good towards the end of the season, in February and March. We can’t continue to give up so many points and expect our offense to keep up, so we need our defense to be stronger.”

Temple will next be in action on Wednesday, Dec. 4, as they take on Towson University in Baltimore. 

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