After an 0-3 start, Temple men’s basketball earns its first win in conference play this season, after defeating the UCF Knights 62-55. Prior to today’s game, the Owls had lost three straight in conference play, including a pair of losses to SMU and a blowout loss on the road against #6 Houston.
This game was originally scheduled to be played Wednesday night, but due to COVID-19 protocols, the game was rescheduled to Thursday at noon. The time change seemed to certainly have its impact, as both teams started cold. The Owls finished the first half shooting just 32%, while UCF shot 31%. The Owls also shot just 4-14 from beyond. Redshirt Freshman Damian Dunn ended the defensive battle with a buzzer beater three to end the half.
Dunn led all scorers Thursday afternoon, with 20 points in 36 minutes, a career high. Dunn spoke with the media after the game on becoming Temple’s go-to scorer:
“It comes from studying…knowing how much we watch film as a team, learning from previous games. The last two losses vs SMU, they weren’t too well of shooting nights for me individually….it’s due to the amount of studying and wanting to get better from your last mistakes.”
The Owls came out of the half with a burst of energy and a quick 6-0 run, including a Jeremiah Williams steal setting up a monster dunk by De’Vondre Perry. The Owls defense was their main key to victory, holding UCF without a made field goal for over six minutes, and scoreless for seven. UCF finished the game shooting just 32.8%, their lowest percentage all season. Late in the game–as per usual in late game situations–the Knights tried to rally back with fouls and quick possessions, and they almost succeeded, cutting an 11 point lead to 3. But the Owls would not be denied their first AAC victory, hitting late free throws and closing things out.
Forward J.P. Moorman II led that defensive front, collecting 13 rebounds, all on the defensive side of the floor. His 13 rebounds are a season high, and ties a career high set back in his sophomore year vs South Florida. The senior reflects on his team’s ability to be able to close out late:
“I don’t think there was ever a point and time where we thought [the game] would slip away, we have confidence in our defense….it got a little close at the end but we knew that we had to make free throws and get stops.”
The Owls as a team shot nearly 41% from 3 and from the field entirely, and scored 16 points in the paint. Also, the Owls grabbed 12 points off turnovers and 9 from the bench. Despite the win, Temple Head Coach Aaron Mckie feels that there is still room for improvement with such a young team:
“We’re not close to where I think we can be. We got a lot of new faces, we got Damian Dunn, Jeremiah Williams, (freshman guards) those guys haven’t been in those type of situations, late in a game, scratching and clawing to win…it’s new. So I just tell those guys to be poise, be patient, be confident. If you do those things, the rewards are great.”
The Owls were scheduled to play on the road at ECU on Saturday, January 16th, but that game has been postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within their program. The Owls will instead travel to face Tulane on Saturday, in a make up of a postponed game from January 6th. The game will tip off at 1pm and will be televised on ESPN+ and can be listened to on 1210 AM WPHT.