Temple women’s basketball headed to NCAA tournament

The No. 7 Owls will play No. 10 Oregon on Saturday in Durham, North Carolina in their first tournament appearance since 2011.

Coach Tonya Cardoza leads discussion in the Owls’ huddle before their 97-69 loss against Connecticut on Feb. 1 at the Liacouras Center. KAIT MOORE FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

For the first time since 2011, the Owls are dancing.

After back-to-back Women’s National Invitation Tournament appearances, the Owls are finally headed back to the NCAA tournament.

Temple, which earned a No. 7 seed, will play No. 10 University of Oregon in the first round at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday in Durham, North Carolina.

“I wanna cry, I wanna laugh,” senior forward Safiya Martin said. “It’s so surreal. I never thought that I would be here in this moment.”

Coach Tonya Cardoza, who is making her fourth NCAA tournament appearance, led her team to a 24-7 overall record and a 13-3 mark in the American Athletic Conference this year. Cardoza earned American Athletic Conference Co-Coach of the Year.

Senior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, who was a first team all-conference selection, led the Owls with 17.3 points and 7.8 assists per game. She was one of four Owls to average double figures in scoring.

Junior guard Alliya Butts averaged 14.5 points per game, while junior guard Donnaizha Fountain averaged 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Coming off the bench, junior guard Tanaya Atkinson, who was the conference’s Sixth Player of the Year, averaged 12.1 points and lead the team with 8.5 rebounds per game.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Fitzgerald said. “We worked hard during the summer, we worked hard during the year. It’s been a great year for us. This is the best senior season I could ever ask for.”

Oregon went 20-13 this season, finishing sixth in the Pacific-12 Conference at 8-10. The Ducks lost three of their last four games of the regular season before upsetting the University of Washington in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.

The Ducks averaged 71.2 points per game this season. They led Division I in 3-point shooting at 39.6 percent. Oregon’s 6-foot-4 freshman forward Ruthy Hebard averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Sabrina Ionescu averaged 14.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.

If the Owls can get by Oregon, they will likely play No. 2 Duke University, which faces No. 15 Hampton University in the first round. The Blue Devils went 27-5 and finished 13-3 for second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“We don’t know much about Oregon, but I know they play in the Pac-12, they’re a really good program and we’re excited for them,” Cardoza said.

“We’re just going to take it one game at a time,” Fitzgerald added.

Owen McCue can be reached at owen.mccue@temple.edu or on Twitter @Owen_McCue. Follow The Temple News on Twitter @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.

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