Owls win close game for first AAC win

Temple University men’s basketball defeated Central Florida today after the offense shot 52.3 percent from the field in the second half.

Senior forward De'Vondre Perry attempts to score a basket during the Owls' game against the University of Central Florida at the Liacouras Center on Jan. 14. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Despite a slow start in the first half, Temple University men’s basketball came out of the locker room and played fast and efficiently, outscoring Central Florida 35-to-28 in their first conference win of the season Thursday afternoon.

Temple (2-3, 1-3 The American Athletic Conference) defeated Central Florida (3-4, 1-3 The American) 62-55 with the help of improved 3-point scoring and defensive rebounding in the second half. 

Early in the game, Temple’s offense was scattered on the court and turned the ball over multiple times. The Owls had 14 turnovers, but UCF also struggled on offense and committed 13 turnovers. 

In the first half, the Knights used their high-pressure defense to force the Owls’ offense to take highly contested shot attempts, resulting in them air balling multiple shots. 

“We didn’t play connected in the first half, I was pretty upset,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “We were a step slow, I thought we needed to put together a better second half.”

Once the Owls came out in the second half, they had different momentum. The offense made five of their eight 3-point attempts and scored 16 points in the paint. Overall, Temple improved its first-half shooting from 32 to 52 percent in the second half. 

After being scoreless in the first half, senior forward De’Vondre Perry displayed a high energy performance, netting two of his six 3-point attempts and finishing the game with 10 points. 

“He was crucial for us on both ends of the court because of his versatility, his ability to knock down shots, get to the rim and keep shooting,” said senior forward J.P. Moorman II.

With 15 minutes remaining in the second half, freshman guard Jeremiah Williams clutched a beautiful defensive rebound and drove down the court before tossing the ball off to Perry, who emphatically dunked the ball. The team carried that energy forward throughout the rest of the game.

Temple made nine of their 22 3-point attempts against UCF’s defense, while UCF’s offense only made seven of their 19 3-point attempts. Despite the Owls struggling to defend the 3-point line in previous conference games, it wasn’t the case against the Knights on Thursday. 

Redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn, who scored 20 points against the Knights, was key in drawing fouls and made 75 percent of his free-throw attempts, while Temple only made 65 percent of their free-throws.

UCF’s sophomore guard Darin Green Jr. scored 17 points and made 75 percent of his 3-point attempts, proving himself a difficult player to guard for the Owls. 

The Owls struggled to close out the game during the last minute of the second half after a foul was called on Williams with the Knights trailing by three. 

Unfortunately for Green, he stepped out of bounds with 23 seconds left, which resulted in a turnover that gave Temple possession in the final seconds of the game.

Temple will hit the road this weekend to take on East Carolina University (7-3, 1-3 The American) on Saturday at noon. 

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