With 19 seconds left, as Temple called a timeout, the players on St. Joseph’s bench lept, crowded around each other and cheered. The Hawks had just gone up by one point with a chance to extend their win streak to six to start the season.
Meanwhile, in huddle on the other side of the court, the Owls made their plans for the next play. Just three seconds after inbounding the ball, senior guard Tanaya Atkinson scored a layup to give the Owls a one-point advantage on the way to a 69-66 win Wednesday night at McGonigle Hall.
“Most of the time, that’s always the plan,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “To get the ball to Tanaya and let her go.”
Junior guard Deja Reynolds solidified the victory for Temple (5-2, 2-0 Big 5) by sinking two free throws with seven seconds left.
Reynolds scored a career-high 12 points and played 26 minutes, which was also a new personal best.
“We needed every single minute that she was out there and everything that she did,” Cardoza said. “Obviously, she’s going to do a good job defensively, but then going down on the other end and being able to knock down buckets and just being confident in everything that she did.”
Defensively, Reynolds finished the night with four rebounds, a steal and a block.
Freshman guard Emani Mayo also had a strong defensive game. She only scored four points on 1-for-11 shooting from the field, but she grabbed four rebounds and played a career-high in minutes in her third straight start.
“Emani played 38 minutes, guarded their best player and held her without a three,” Cardoza said. “That’s a big deal when you have freshmen that are getting that experience playing in Big 5 games.”
The Owls kept St. Joe’s to just 1-for-10 from behind the 3-point line. Before Wednesday’s game, the Hawks had shot 56.7 percent from the 3-point line.
“The fact that they only got one three, that was a big deal,” Cardoza said. “I thought defensively, as a team, we did a really good job of following the game plan and not really giving their best players the touches or the shots that they wanted.”
Each team had three double-figure scorers. Temple saw offensive production from freshman forward Mia Davis, who recorded her second double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Atkinson also had a double-double, her sixth in seven games. She contributed 24 points and 13 rebounds, moving her season averages to 23.1 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game.
“I’m just trying to play hard all the time,” Atkinson said. “You shouldn’t ever want your coach or one of your teammates to come to you after the game and say, ‘You didn’t play hard.’”
The Owls picked up their momentum after the first quarter thanks in part to Atkinson’s leadership and focus, Cardoza said. In the first period, Temple only scored nine points and had seven turnovers. The Owls had a 21-point second quarter.
Cardoza attributed the second-quarter success to a faster game pace. Cardoza said Reynolds contributed to speeding the game up because she brings speed and quickness when she’s on the court.
“I definitely feel like we’re better when we’re faster,” Cardoza said. “We’re a lot quicker in getting to guys even when they were open. We were quick enough to catch up to them to get them out of their rhythm, so I thought that was key.”
Temple continues its seven-game home stand against Harvard University on Saturday at McGonigle Hall.