After a back-and-forth first half with six lead changes, South Florida led Temple by three at halftime, with both teams trying to pull ahead.
In the second half, South Florida’s Courtney Williams scored 20 of her 22 points to help the Bulls defeat Temple 64-46 on Sunday in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, eliminating the Owls from the tournament.
In the beginning of the second half, sophomore guard Alliya Butts drove to the basket and scored with eight minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter, sparking a 9-0 run that gave Temple a 37-31 lead.
With 6:49 remaining in the quarter, South Florida’s Shalethia Stringfield landed a jumper to end Temple’s run, cutting the Owls’ lead to four points.
The Bulls closed the final five minutes of the quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 45-39 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulls outscored the Owls 19-7, including seven points from Williams.
“It got to the point the way we were guarding her the first half was completely different than the second half,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We were not focused on where we wanted her to be, where we wanted to force her.”
After jumping out to an early 6-2 lead, the Owls regained the lead with 8:25 left in the second quarter after a layup from sophomore guard Alliya Butts.
The Owls were held scoreless for the next six minutes of play until sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson, who scored a team-high 17 points, drove up the middle from the three-point line and landed a layup over three Bulls defenders to cut South Florida’s lead to 27-26 with 0:56 remaining in the first half.
The Bulls headed into halftime leading Temple 29-26.
“I thought we did a really good job of containing Courtney In the first half,” Cardoza said. “It was definitely because of the defensive side the first half was close because we contained her.”
Both Temple and South Florida totaled eight turnovers, but South Florida scored 12 points from Temple’s turnovers.
“They are really good at transition,” Cardoza said. “They turned their turnovers into buckets and that is hard to come back from.”
With Temple eliminated from the conference tournament, Cardoza and the Owls hold on to the idea they can still make it to the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think this is the game that would make or break it,” Cardoza said. “Coming into this game no one expected us to win I’m sure. I definitely think a win would have helped us, but it is not the deciding factor.
Connor Northrup can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org