After losing two straight games and three of their past four, the Owls got back in the win column against Southern Methodist by defeating the Mustangs, 55-52, on Sunday at McGonigle Hall.
The Owls (9-5, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) started three freshmen, including Breanna Perry, who started the first 10 games before coming off the bench during the next three.
“At this point in the season, every win is a good win for us because we are inexperienced and we got a lot of guys playing a lot of minutes in a tough schedule, but down the line, this should help them,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We’re sitting here 9-5. I’m sure there are a lot of teams would want to switch places with us and be 9-5.”
Senior guard Khadijah Berger returned to the court after missing the past two games with a hand injury. She had two points and a career-high eight assists. Freshman guard Desiree Oliver, who averaged eight points per game in the Owls’ first eight games, has not played since Dec. 2, 2017, against Harvard University.
Graduate transfer guard Mykia Jones played 29 minutes off the bench and scored nine points, including a free throw with 10 seconds left to put Temple up by three.
Jones is in her first year at Temple after past stops at Wake Forest University in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Georgetown University in the Big East Conference.
“The guard play has been something that I’ve adjusted to,” Jones said. “All the guards in this league are tough and you have to work hard on both ends against them.”
The game was tied with only two minutes, 19 seconds left. Freshman forward Mia Davis broke the tie with a contested layup to put the Owls up 54-52 and force Southern Methodist to call a timeout.
During the timeout, senior guard Tanaya Atkinson, the Owls’ leading scorer and 13th-leading scorer in Division I, hobbled over to the athletic trainer and received treatment for a cramp.
Despite not having Atkinson for the next 47 seconds, Temple held on to its late lead.
Offensively, Atkinson carried the load. She was one of only two Owls who scored in double figures. Davis had 10 points, and Atkinson had 23. Atkinson also added 11 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end, for her 10th double-double of the season.
Southern Methodist opened up the game on a 7-0 run. Temple responded with four straight points before Southern Methodist went on another 7-0 run. At the end of first quarter, Temple trailed, 19-11.
Southern Methodist shot 39.4 percent from the field in the first half compared to 20.7 percent in the second half.
“I felt like in the first quarter that we were getting sucked into guarding the post players and leaving their guards, who are their best scorers, open,” Cardoza said. “Once we paid attention to that and only used two people to guard their post players, we played better.”
The Owls will continue conference play on Wednesday against South Florida (12-4, 2-1 The American) at McGonigle Hall. South Florida is the No. 22 team in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 31 in the Ratings Percentage Index.