Owls beat Knights in nail-biter

Temple University men’s basketball defeated the University of Central Florida 66-62 with multiple clutch plays down the stretch.

Jahlil White, a freshman guard, handles the ball beyond the arc during an Owl's game against Delaware State University at the Liacouras Center on Dec. 22. | NOEL CHACKO / FILE

With seven seconds remaining in the game, Owls’ redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn hit a clutch 3-pointer to give Temple a two-point lead. After a Knights turnover the next play, Dunn hit two free throws to put the game out of reach. 

“If you’ve got the space, let it fly,” Dunn said after the game. 

Temple University men’s basketball (8-6, 1-2 The American Athletic Conference) defeated the University of Central Florida (9-4, 1-2 The American) 66-62 Wednesday night at the Addition Financial Arena in Orlando, Florida. 

Associate head coach Monte Ross replaced head coach Aaron McKie, who was placed on the team’s COVID-19 protocol list this week. The young team in Temple played beyond their years in savvy fashion throughout the game.

Freshman forward Nick Jourdain forced a jump ball after he tied up Knights’ redshirt-sophomore guard Tyem Freeman, giving the Owls possession with 14.1 seconds remaining. 

The Owls avenged their previous 65-48 loss to the Knights on Dec. 15 in Philadelphia, with multiple players stepping up in the absence of junior forward Jake Forrester and redshirt-sophomore guard Tai Strickland. 

Owls’ freshman guard Jahlil White greatly contributed to Temple’s success, securing five rebounds and finishing the game with 17 points on 78 percent shooting. Freshman forward Zach Hicks finished with 10 points of his own, including two crucial threes in the final minutes.

The Knights’ full-court pressure forced eight turnovers in the first half, setting up easy looks for the Knights to get the game started. Knights’ guards graduate student Darius Perry and junior Darin Green Jr. hounded Temple’s guards all night, forcing them off their offensive rhythm.

Freshman guard Jeremiah Williams and Dunn began to break down the press early in the second half with quick ball movement and lots of crafty dribbling to getinto the paint. Williams finished with 13 second half points. 

For the Knights, who were fresh off a conference loss at Southern Methodist University (11-3, 2-0 The American) on Jan. 2, Perry finished with 14 points tonight. Redshirt-senior forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong tied his season-high with 12.

This was the team effort the Owls have yearned for in the absence of sophomore guard Khalif Battle. When all of the pieces clicked, the Owls looked like a very capable team. 

“Do what you do,” McKie told Ross before the game. “Don’t second guess yourself.”

Temple played with confidence and poise for the majority of the game, and the end result was an accumulation of several heads-up plays forcing the Knights to make mistakes. 

The Owls head home to face off against East Carolina University (9-3, 0-0 The American) on Jan. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.

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