With just under three minutes remaining in the game, sophomore guard Nicolette Mayo subbed in for just the third time this season.
As the game clock ticked down, sophomore forward Mia Davis passed the ball to Mayo who scored the first two points of her career. As Mayo’s layup fell through the net, all of Temple’s bench jumped to their feet, cheering for Mayo.
“She gives everything every day in practice, and it felt good for everyone to see her go out and play and just be tough,” coach Tonya Cardoza said.
The smile on Cardoza’s face was not just out of happiness for Mayo, but for the team’s first conference win. Mayo’s score put the Owls up by 24 points with 41 seconds as the Owls (5-14, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) broke their seven-game losing streak with an 84-62 win against conference opponent East Carolina on Saturday in McGonigle Hall.
“It feels great to finally get a win, to get the monkey off our back,” Cardoza said. “We’ve had a couple of really good practices and it carried over to today. The way we played defense the last few days in practice, I thought today we did a great job of defending them.”
Temple held ECU to 30.6 percent shooting from the field and just 13.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Owls also limited the Pirates to 20 points in the paint and pulled in 47 rebounds, two more than ECU.
“We did a really good job of not allowing them to dribble penetrate because that’s their strength,” Cardoza said. “I thought we did a really good job of being in the gaps, being ready to help each other out, sliding over. We were more in tune, ready to help each other out, just paying attention a little more on the defensive side.”
ECU’s shooting percentage from the field is the second-lowest among Temple’s opponents this season. Meanwhile, the Owls shot their second-best percentage from the field at 46.7 percent.
Graduate student guard Alliya Butts led the team with a season-high 28 points. Butts went 5-of-8 from the three-point line, contributing to Temple’s 39.3 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
“I haven’t been making that many shots lately, so it felt good to watch the ball go through the net and just come out with a win,” Butts said.
Davis finished with 20 points, shooting 7-of-11 from the field while recording a team-high 12 rebounds, notching her seventh double-double of the season. But ECU’s full-court press forced Davis to commit eight turnovers.
Senior forward Lena Niang added 13 points while freshman guard Marissa Mackins recorded a season-high 10 rebounds.
The Owls never relinquished the lead it gained after Davis made a basket with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter.
Davis was relieved Temple did not allow ECU a comeback. During the Owls’ seven-game losing streak, the team would hold a lead but “relax” and allow opponents to win the game, Davis said.
The Owls hope to keep the winning momentum going and earn their second conference win against Tulsa in Oklahoma on Jan. 29.