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More ‘aggressive, focused,’ Atkinson leads Temple over SMU

Entering Sunday’s showdown, Temple and SMU were both searching for its first victory in conference play. The game was tight the entire time, but in the end the Owls picked up the victory over the Mustangs.

Erin Kate Dolan/Swish Appeal

Philadelphia, PA — The Temple Owls (9-5) staved off a valiant effort from the SMU Mustangs (6-10), winning their American Athletic Conference home opener, 55-52, on Sunday.

Despite the low score, the game was an offensive back-and-forth from the opening jump.

The Mustangs came out with a bang with a seven-point run at the start of the game. With a dominant full-court press, the Mustangs were able to score eight points off turnovers in the first quarter against the Owls.

But that didn’t stop Temple senior Tanaya Atkinson in her pursuit to beat SMU in Temple’s American Athletic Conference home opener match-up on Sunday inside of McGonigle Hall.

Atkinson ended with 23 points and 11 rebounds, as she was draining the ball from the 3-point line, foul line, and in the paint, while assisting teammates and adding rebounds.

“I just came out with a lot of confidence and was aggressive and just focused on the finish,” said Atkinson on the difference between this game and their December 30 loss to UCF, where Atkinson only posted six points.

At the half, Atkinson had more than half of her team’s points and lead the game with 14 points, as the Owls trailed the Mustangs 32-27.

Atkinson's grit and determination is the reason she averages the team-best totals in rebounds, assists, and points.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, it was anyone’s game with the score tied at 45, which was the perfect time for Atkinson to shine.

Atkinson scored the first bucket of the quarter, but then limped off the court to the trainer, who stretched her out before returning with 13 seconds left and a two-point lead. Fighting through leg cramps, she helped her team take home their first conference win of the season.

“We found our way to fight it out and that’s what’s most important. And we were able to pull this one out... Any win right now I am excited about right now,” said Temple’s head coach Tonya Cardoza.

Temple has a few days to recharge their batteries, as they suit up next against South Florida on Wednesday. SMU doesn't play again until Jan. 13, when they face East Carolina.

BIG CONFERENCE WIN for the Temple Owls against SMU, ending in a 55-52 victory. Temple's senior Tanaya Atkinson posted 23 points and 11 rebounds.

Posted by Swish Appeal on Sunday, January 7, 2018