With 20.6 seconds remaining in the Owls’ 63-61 win against Central Florida on Saturday at the Liacouras Center, Quenton DeCosey dribbled the ball near the circle at midcourt.
The senior guard wiped his hands down the front of his white shorts. Then he wiped the bottoms of his cherry and black Under Armour sneakers before he started his attack toward the basket.
DeCosey drove toward the foul-line line and used a pump fake to draw his defender in the air before taking a step forward and knocking down the eventual game-winning shot with 3.1 seconds left.
“I was thinking I was gonna take the shot,” DeCosey said. “I got him up in the air and as soon as he came down, I rose up and took it and it went down.”
The game-winning bucket was DeCosey’s third chance in less than 30 seconds to give the Owls (18-10, 12-4 American Athletic Conference) the lead.
After Central Florida’s senior guard Daiquan Walker hit 2-of-3 free throws to tie the game at 61 with one minute left, DeCosey airballed a shot from the top of the key, which went out of bounds of a Knights’ defender with two seconds left on the shot clock and 32 seconds left in the game.
On the ensuing inbounds play, DeCosey’s 3-point attempt from the right corner missed off the front of the rim. Junior guard Josh Brown, who finished the game with nine assists, grabbed the rebound, securing the final shot for the Owls.
“On the previous shots, they just didn’t drop,” DeCosey said. “I stayed with it, and I made it when it counted the most.”
DeCosey finished with 16 points in Saturday’s contest, his highest scoring total since he scored 23 points against Connecticut on Feb. 11.
Sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia came into Saturday’s game averaging 19.3 points per game in his last three contests, shooting 50 percent or better from the field in all three games.
Enechionyia missed his first four shots against the Knights. He finished 8-of-16 from the field for 18 points.
“I know I’m being a lot more aggressive than I was during the first half of the season,” Enechionyia said. “That’s really all that is, coming into the game with a different mindset that anyone I’m playing against I can score against.”
Central Florida’s 7-foot-6-inch center Tacko Fall presented challenges for the Owls on both ends of the floor. The freshman scored 13 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots.
With senior forward Jaylen Bond in foul trouble for most of the second half, coach Fran Dunphy used a lineup of DeCosey, Enechionyia, Brown, redshirt junior guard/forward Daniel Dingle and senior guard Devin Coleman.
“We ran our regular stuff, but we wanted to bring Fall away from the basket …. just to keep the biggers guys out on the perimeter,” Dunphy said. “We had five guys that could handle the ball a little bit when Jaylen wasn’t in the game to take advantage of that.”
Temple’s largest lead of the game was a six-point advantage with 5:33 left in the game after an Enechionyia three.
Led by Walker, who is a Philadelphia, and his 21 points, the Knights kept things close the rest of the way.
In Temple’s last game against the Knights, who ranks eighth in the conference standings at 5-11, the Owls won 62-60.
“I just think we haven’t played as well as we should against them,” Enechionyia said. “We’re the better team, but sometimes our shots don’t fall, different things happen, and it becomes a close game.”
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue