Temple began their game against UCF with their top three scorers sitting on the bench. Owls who combine for 42.9 points per game watched as the Knights shot out to a 15-8 lead early in the game.
However, once Temple head coach Aaron McKie motioned to his substitutes, the energy in the game completely changed. In their second-straight overtime finish, it was the three bench players that secured the Owls the win.
Temple Men’s Basketball (14-9, 8-2 The American Athletic Conference) defeated the University of Central Florida (13-8, 4-5 The American) 77-70 Saturday afternoon in Orlando, Florida. The Owls shot 57 percent from the field in the final period to outlast the Knights in overtime.
Guard duo Khalif Battle and Damian Dunn, who each average more than 15 points per game, checked in alongside center Jamille Reynolds with about 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
Battle played very well from the jump, finishing the first half with 11 points, four rebounds and three assists. He also drew a charge, recorded a steal, and defended UCF’s best guards the entire time he was in the game.
Meanwhile, Reynolds excelled in the paint against his former squad. UCF freshman forward Taylor Hendricks, the American’s leading blocker with 1.9 per game, was unable to hold his own against the 280-pound Reynolds, who finished the first half with nine points on 80 percent shooting.
“It’s like a first step for me,” Reynolds said after the Owls’ 79-76 victory against USF on Jan. 25. “Getting back, you know, just take care of business. Just go and do it.”
Reynolds’ presence down low opens up so many driving lanes for the Owls. While he only had two points in his first game easing back into the lineup, Reynolds displayed his full arsenal of post moves.
The Owls ended the first half on a 19-4 run, holding the Knights to zero field goals during the final four minutes and 40 seconds of the period. Temple’s halfcourt defense flustered UCF’s offense, forcing seven turnovers in the first half on top of several key misses. The Knights started off the game shooting better than 50 percent from the field, a mark that dropped to around 40 percent by the half’s end.
As the game progressed, the Knights slowly crawled back into the contest. Temple guard Hysier Miller’s team-leading 12 points with 13 minutes remaining proved not to be enough as UCF took a lead for the first time since the first half.
One key Temple piece that remained absent through 27 minutes was Dunn. The sophomore played a facilitating role early on, but only scored four points on 20 percent shooting with two turnovers as the clock ticked down in the second period.
Dunn has set the tone for the Owls all season, and his clutch shooting has kept Temple in games that seemed out of reach. However, his eight total points today and two attempts from the free throw line were below his averages.
One area that Temple has excelled at during the past three contests was creating the best scoring opportunities possible in their half court offense. Whether it was setting Battle up with threes or finding Reynolds down low, thir best ball movement took place in moderation today.
Temple recaptured the lead with roughly six minutes remaining. Although he shot poorly throughout the contest, forward Zach Hicks hit a corner three when Temple needed it most.
Yet on the next two defensive possessions, Temple’s 20-plus second solid efforts were rendered useless by a late-possession foul, surrendering the lead once more. For the third straight game, it seemed as if Temple gave up their advantage for good.
And for the fourth straight game, Temple somehow pulled out the win.
A Dunn pull-up jumper was followed by two key free throw makes with a minute left from Battle. With 2.4 seconds remaining, UCF sophomore guard Darius Johnson missed two free throws, but secured his own rebound off the second miss and drew another chance to tie the game. Johnson went on to hit both free throws, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, Battle expanded his scoring total to 26 points while Reynolds reached 16 points. The Owls outplayed the Knights on both ends of the floor, drawing fouls, protecting the rim and hitting contested shots. Battle also made four straight free throws with little time remaining to ice the contest along with key defensive plays from.
Temple moved to 5-0 in away conference games this season. Wins don’t seem to come easy for Temple, but they stepped up when it mattered most.
Next up, the Owls hope to expand their win streak to five in a rematch with the University of Houston (19-2, 7-1 The American) on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at The Liacouras Center.