PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/22/2017 – For the second straight game the Temple Owls found themselves on the losing end of another close game. After a tough loss to Connecticut at the end, this time the Owls had the opportunity to pull out a win, but a three-pointer with 7 seconds on the clock did not go down. Temple falls to the UCF Knights 71 – 69 at the Liacouris Center.
“We’re close, we’re almost there,” said Temple Coach Fran Dunphy. “We had so many close games, and we have to figure out how to get over the hump. I am proud of our guys efforts. We have to figure it out better than we have over the last couple of games.”
At the 2:28 mark a layup by Nick Banyard gave UCF a 65 – 63 lead. That also started a string of five consecutive lead changes. The Knights got the lead for good at 70 – 69 on a jumper by B.J. Taylor with 55 ticks on the clock. Following a miss the Owls were forced to foul to get UCF to the foul line. A whistle on guard Shizz Alston, Jr. put Tacko Fall at the line at the 20.2 mark with a one and one. Fall missed giving Temple a last chance.
The possession yielded a three-pointer by Owls forward Mark Williams. The shot went off the side of the rim. There was a scramble for the rebound, but Taylor came up with the ball. He was fouled, and made one of two free throws.
“We gave the ball to Dan (Dingle) and told him to make a play,” Alston, Jr. said about the possession. “He is our senior lead and made a good play, kicked it out to Mark Williams, another senior leader. The ball did not go in, but it was well executed and we wouldn’t want the ball in anyone else’s hands but our two leaders.”
Obi Enechionyia scored a team-high 17 points, all in the second half, making 5 of 8 from distance. It was his biggest offensive output since scoring 26 against Saint Joseph’s on November 30.
“It felt good to get my shot back, but I wish it would have came with a win,” said Enechionyia. “It felt good to hit some shots.”
Alston, Jr. added 15 points and 3 assists. Williams and Quinton Rose each scored 11 points As a team Temple shot 46.8% from the floor and 47.6% from beyond the arc. Impressive numbers against UCF who leads the nation is field goal defensive percentage (35.9%) and three-point field goals (30%).
Much of their defense can be attributed to the presence of Fall who stands 7′ 6″, the tallest player in the NCAA. The sophomore from Senegal had 14 points and 10 rebounds, the 10th double-double of the season. He blocked 5 shots and altered a few more.
All four other starters reached double figures. Banyard had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Taylor contributed a game-high 19 points, the last two being the most significant. Matt Williams scored 13 points and A.J. Davis 11 markers.
Temple (14 – 155, 5 – 11) has two more regular season games remaining. The Owls drop to 9th place in the league. It is that time of year when talk of seed numbers enter into the conversation, but they can move up by winning the last two games. And a conference tournament run can ease the sting of close losses.
“Look on the bright side,” said Alston, Jr. “Obi got his shot back, and when he is making shots, we are almost unbeatable. If he is making shots and Dan is making shots, we are a tough team to play. I think we are going to make a deep run and win the tournament.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian