ORLANDO, Fla. — Fran Dunphy entered this season with 10 active players on his roster, but next week’s season-ending right knee surgery for Daniel Dingle means that number will shrink to nine.
During Temple’s 78-76 loss to Central Florida, Dunphy was left with eight. Mark Williams limped off of the court midway through the first half, wincing in pain. He did not return, and his status for Thursday’s home game against South Florida is not yet known.
“It’s damaging…troubling,” Dunphy said.
Williams was helped off the court, where his ankle was iced. The freshman forward wore a boot and used crutches upon returning to the bench for the second half.
Like in its previous loss against Rutgers, Temple (5-7, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) kept the game close with UCF (9-4, 101 American Athletic Conference), but failed to finish strong during the final minutes of play.
“We kept battling, kept pushing,” Dunphy said. “We need better stop opportunities. We needed more stops and better scoring chances down the other end for us.”
The Knights jumped to an early 8-0 lead, as the Owls started the game 0-6 from the field. But junior guard Will Cummings sparked Temple’s offense, as the Owls went on a 22-4 run that gave them a 28-24 lead with 6:47 remaining in the first half.
“I had a bad game against Rutgers and I came out looking more aggressive,” Cummings said.
“It wasn’t good enough, we lost,” Cummings added. “We took our second loss in conference and have a two-game losing streak now. We have to go back to the drawing board and make sure we get our next win.”
Cummings, who is from nearby Jacksonville, ended the game with a career-high 31 points. About 30 family members and friends were there to watch his performance.
UCF’s Isaiah Sykes led the Knights with 23 points, as they eventually retook the lead before time expired in the first. At halftime, UCF led Temple 40-38.
The second half remained close until the end. The highest lead UCF held was six points, and a Cummings jumper cut the Knights’ lead to one point with 2:33 left to play.
During the final minutes, the Owls believed a 10-second backcourt violation was called on the Knights, but the referees declared it an inadvertent whistle in what Dunphy called “a crazy situation.” The Knights drilled six of their final seven free throws during the final minutes and held on to beat the Owls 78-76.
Temple will return home on Thursday to face South Florida in the Liacouras Center at 7 p.m. Dunphy said he doesn’t know why his team is struggling to close out games.
“It could be inexperience,” Dunphy said. “We need to get stops at certain times and score at others, but the encouraging thing is we’re right where we need to be many times at the end.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.