Owls Survive Knights, First 5-0 Start on Road in Conference Play in 35 Years
Written by: Zack Silverstein
Photo by: Andrew Mayo
Temple men’s basketball (14-9, 8-2 American Athletic Conference) defeated UCF (13-8, 4-5 AAC) 77-70 in overtime behind guard Khalif Battle’s 26 points and sophomore forward Jamille Reynolds’ 16 points.
This win marks the first time the Owls have started 5-0 on the road in conference play since the 1987-88 season.
The game started with a back-and-forth battle, but then UCF started to find a groove. A 12-2 scoring run, combined with Temple going scoreless for just under two minutes, allowed the Knights to take a 20-10 lead with 10 minutes to play.
The Owls were looking sloppy, committing three turnovers and not getting any good looks to the basket over that stretch.
However, things started to change for Temple when they began to get comfortable. Led by Battle and Reynolds, who transferred from UCF to Temple and mentioned the importance of this game earlier in the week, Temple went on a 19-4 scoring run over the final 6:56 of the half, holding UCF to a field-goal drought for the final 4:40.
The Owls, behind 11 points from Battle, nine points from Reynolds and eight points from sophomore guard Hysier Miller, took a 36-29 lead into the half.
The second half saw extended runs and droughts, causing the two teams to go back and forth. UCF jumped out to a 47-44 lead after going on a 12-2 run in over four minutes. Their scoring run, combined with a three-minute scoring drought from Temple, provided a spark in the arena.
The Knights’ good fortune started to turn, however, after they found themselves on a field goal drought of over six minutes. The extended drought enabled the Owls to take a 58-56 lead after a driving layup from Battle.
The final nine seconds of regulation were about as hectic as one could imagine.
Temple guard Damian Dunn had the ball in his hands, looking to extend Temple’s two-point lead, but he was stripped by UCF senior forward Lahat Thioune.
Thioune passed the ball ahead to sophomore guard Darius Johnson, who was fouled by Battle with two seconds remaining. Johnson, a 91% free throw shooter, missed the first attempt. He then intentionally missed his second attempt, hoping for an offensive rebound.
Johnson executed the play to perfection, grabbing his own rebound and drawing a foul on sophomore guard Jahlil White with one second remaining. Johnson took advantage of the opportunity this time, nailing both free throws and sending the game to overtime knotted at 62.
Overtime was all Battle and Reynolds, who scored nine points and five points respectively. Temple outscored UCF 15-8 behind 57.1% field goal shooting.
The Owls escaped with a 77-70 win, improving their American Athletic Conference record to 8-2.
They will look to jump to 9-2 on Sunday, Feb. 5, when they take on no. 3 Houston at The Liacouras Center. The game can be watched live on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.