For the first time since 2011, the Temple Lady Owls (24-7) are dancing.
Led by a fearsome foursome of Feyond Fitzgerald (17.3 points, 7.8 assists), Aliya Butts (15.1 points), Donnaizha Fountain (14.1 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Tanya Atkinson (13.1 points), the No. 7 seeded Owls are deep offensively and look poised for a run in the Bridgeport region.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Fitzgerald said. “We worked hard during the summer, we worked hard during the year. It’s been a great year for us. This is the best senior season I could ever ask for.”
The Owls are set to face No. 10 Oregon (20-13) in their first round matchup at 6:35 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2. The Ducks have some impressive wins on their résumé over ranked opponents in No. 24 Michigan State, No. 20 Cal and No. 15 UCLA earlier in the season and will surely be a tough task in round one.
It’s up to Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, now in her fourth NCAA appearance, to improve upon her 2-1 tournament record in the first round and help the Owls advance.
“We don’t know much about Oregon, but I know they play in the Pac 12,” Cardoza said. “They’re a really good program and we’re excited for them.”
A pair of freshman in Ruthy Hebard (14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Sabrina Ionescu (14.3 points, 6.6 rebounds) have served as the engines to Oregon’s offense this season and it will be up to the Owls’ veteran leadership to lock them down on the defensive end.
Cardoza’s team, who was placed in the WNIT the past two seasons, thinks this may have been a bit of a reward by the selection committee.
“We’ve been so disappointed,” Cardoza said. “Maybe they are trying to make up for it.”
The winner of Saturday’s game will face the winner of No. 2 Duke and No. 15 Hampton on Monday. If Duke advances, it will be somewhat of a home game for the Blue Devils as the game is being played in Durham, North Carolina.