PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/25/2017 – The Temple Owls claimed the Big Five women’s championship sweeping the city series defeating the University of Pennsylvania Quakers 63 – 53 at the Palestra. The Temple winning streak has grown to 12 games. The Owls wanted to play for a championship, did that, and won it.
“It feels great, it’s been four years, working hard every year and we finally ended up winning the whole thing going 4 and 0 feels good,” said Temple guard Feyonda Fitzgerald. “It’s great to know all of this work paid off.”
Going into the fourth quarter the issue was still in doubt. Each team was going through a scoring drought that continued into the fourth quarter. Temple missed three shots and had a turnover to start the period. However, Penn missed five attempts and turned it over once. The Red and Blue took the lead on a Casey Chambers three-pointer with 5:49 to play. The Cherry and White responded with an 11 – 4 on inside baskets by Tanaya Atkinson and Donnaizha Fountain then capped it by an Alliya Butts three-ball with 2:37 to play. Fountain got three offensive rebounds in that sequence as she pulled down a game-high twelve, five on the offensive side.
“Down the stretch when it mattered we really buckled down and made plays,” said Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza.
Penn would make only 2 of 13 shots in the fourth quarter and that proved to be their undoing.
“That’s part of the game,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “It’s deflating. We missed four layups in a row at a critical time when we had inside position. It’s basketball. We had possession, but it didn’t happen.”
This game was played close to the basket as the Owls took 45 two-point shots and the Quakers 41. The style may be more to the liking of the Quakers, but it was Temple who had the rebounding edge 42 – 31 and 19 – 13 off the offensive glass. Khadijah Berger grabbed a career-mark 9 rebounds while Ruth Sherrill added 8 for the Cherry and White. Sydney Stipanovich pulled down 7 rebounds for Penn.
“This game was all about keeping calm and doing what we normally do,” Fitzgerald said. “And doing the little things like boxing out and protecting the ball. They crash the boards so, one of our main focus was to box out.”
Fountain led all scorers with 20 points to record her fourth straight double-double, the 8th of her career. Fitzgerald scored 13 points and handed out 7 assists.
“When she gets inside, she draws attention and finds gaps,” Cardoza said about Fitzgerald. “You have to have your hands up and be ready as she’ll find you around the basket.”
Stipanovich led Penn in scoring with 16 points and fellow front court mate Michelle Nwokedi had 10. Anna Ross recorded a season-high 8 assists. Chambers stole the ball a career-best 7 times as Penn had 11 steals overall.
The Red and Blue couldn’t get a Big Five win this year. The Quakers drop to 9 – 6 and will play their final non-conference game against Stevens Tech on Sunday.
The Owls (16 – 3, 4 – 0) return to the court on Sunday meeting USF, then host top-ranked Connecticut next Wednesday. The schedule is tough at this point. Temple is getting votes in the national rankings and have a chance to climb into the Top 25.
Written By: Glenn Papazian