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Temple coach dissatisfied: ‘We got to get better defensively’

It was a back and forth brawl at McGonigle Hall as Temple barely held off a feisty Marist team. After being overshadowed by the Red Foxes in the first half, the Owls were able to pull of a second-half takeover led by 2017 American Athletic Conference Sixth Player of the Year, Tanaya Atkinson.

Karlie Smith — Swish Appeal

Philadelphia, PA — The Temple Owls survived a scare from the Marist Red Foxes on Saturday, escaping McGonigle Hall with an 83-77 victory.

It was a shaky first half for the Temple Owls, with Marist taking the early lead in the first period. The opening five minutes of the game was very back and forth; the Owls would score and the Red Foxes would answer. Temple was forced to become busy above the arc, as 11 out of their 16 shots were shot from three-point range. However, they were only 5-for-16 from the field.

Messy play formations, rushing shots and lack of communication allowed Marist to take advantage of wide-open shots and plenty of rebounding opportunities.

Frustration was shown not only by Temple's leading scorer Tanaya Atkinson after many missed attempts, but also from head coach Tonya Cardoza. Marist on the other end showed to be very steady, finding the necessary buckets to take an 18-14 lead after the first.

Going into the second frame, Temple started with an early run. However, turnovers such as traveling, sloppy defense and fouls restrained the Owls from pulling ahead for long.

At intermission, Marist led Temple 34-29.

According to Cordoza, Temple allowed Marist to force them into taking uncomfortable shots, especially beyond the arc. Instead of playing aggressively and taking the ball to the paint the Owls resorted to settling for threes.

Cordoza talked about the Owls' lack of focus on the defensive end.

“We’ve got to get better defensively. We talked about not allowing guys to score the way they wanted to,” said Cordoza. “We have to get back to the basics and make sure we are sitting down and defending people.”

Going into the locker-room Temple had zero free throws; Atkinson going into the game led Division I in free throw attempts, yet the Red Foxes were able to silence her on the court.

After halftime, a light switch went off for the Owls. The atmosphere was electric both on the court, bench and in the arena. At this point in the game, Atkinson started to do what she does best and took the ball into her own hands.

With a quicker tempo and less forced shots Temple was able to take the lead, 50-48, entering the fourth quarter.

In the final stanza, Lena Niang was sinking threes left and right, proving to be a huge asset to the Temple offense. Prior to this matchup, Niang had a career high of only five points; she more than tripled that Saturday with 18.

The last two minutes of the game, Temple still allowed Marist to hang around, despite more offensive production from the Owls.

With one minute left on the clock, Temple led 75-70 and it was time to break out the whistle as Marist started to commit desperation fouls. During the last minutes of the game, leading scorer Atkinson showed no let-up and was vicious from the line forcing an 83-77 victory.

Temple benefitted from a double-double by freshman Mia Davis with 15 rebounds and 18 points. Atkinson led with 25 points overall on the night and Emani Mayo was a huge contributor with 11 points.

Overall, Marist played to the ability of Temple with three starters scoring in double digits. Alana Gilmer led the way with 24, followed by Maura Fitzpatrick with 15 and Rebekah Hand with 14.

Marist head coach Brian Giorgis acknowledged that this loss was tough, but he is seeing improvement.

“We don’t take any moral victories away, but we are getting better,” Giorgis said “We are getting better at the right time. This would have beaten a lot of teams in our conference (the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), in fact almost all of them.”

Temple is looking to carry their 8-3 momentum into a Dec. 21st match-up against the reigning 2017 NCAA Champions, the South Carolina Gamecocks.

WHOA! This game was a REAL BATTLE!

Posted by Swish Appeal on Saturday, December 16, 2017