Written by: Sam Cohn
Photo by: Irish Haines
Temple continues to stun the college basketball world and their season isn’t done yet after beating the No. 25 ranked UCF Knights 67-62 in their final regular season outing.
For Temple Head Coach Fran Dunphy, senior big man Ernest Aflakpui, and senior guard Shizz Alston Jr., Saturday’s win was the last time they’ll take the court as a part of the team.
“I’ve been very fortunate, the city means a lot to me, I wanted to succeed in every single way. Whether it’s culturally, financially, or educationally,” said Dunphy. “We definitely do some wonderful things. We’re not perfect but we care and [Philadelphia] is a special place.”
In a game with major tournament implications, the Owls were up to the task taking on a ranked opponent that had come off of a five game win streak.
Alston Jr. poured in 21 points to go along with 6 assists but the numbers don’t speak loudly enough to the impact he has had on the team and the program.
“I’ve always admired his game,” said UCF Head Coach Johnny Dawkins about Alston Jr. “He’s such a versatile player on the perimeter. He’s poised and he never seems to get rattled.”
The Liacouras Center was packed to the brim to see this Temple squad fight to see another day. The Owls fed off the energy from the 9,951 fans and kept their foot on the gas the whole way.
Justyn Hamilton and J.P. Moorman II were the two Owls that really stepped up and impacted the game at both ends of the floor.
As the Knights’ defense collapsed on Alston Jr. driving to the hoop, Hamilton and Moorman were able to find open space for a layup on the block or a mid-range jumper.
“I just wanted to win for my team, just wanted to put my team on my back as much as I can and do it for them,” said Alston Jr.
Aubrey Dawkins, the guard from UCF, gave Temple a lot of trouble at the defensive end. He finished the night with 36 points and 11 boards.
The Knight that draws all the attention at both ends of the floor, 7 foot 6 inch senior Tacko Fall, was essentially a non-factor throughout but Dawkins was able to find a groove knocking down shots with consistency and keeping the game competitive.
Fall tallied just two points but picked up four fouls which restricted his minutes down the stretch. The Owls took full advantage of his time off the court by spacing the floor to attack the paint in creative ways.
A Justyn Hamilton two-handed rim-rattling dunk, a Quinton Rose poster jam, and an Ernest Aflakpui stuff at the rim were key moments that swung the momentum in favor of the Owls.
Feeding off of each other’s success and off the intensity of the moment pushed Temple to close out the game.
“I said if we beat UCF and finish out with no bad losses I think we’re in,” mentioned Alston Jr. about Temple’s continuous stretch as a bubble team.
The Owls will have to wait for Selection Sunday to hear if their name is officially called to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament but finishing the season with such a strong win was essential for rounding out their season resume.
WHIP Player of the Game
Shizz Alston Jr. knew he needed to show out on senior night and that’s exactly what he did posting 21 points and 6 assists including five free throws. He’s proven to be a threat at both ends of the floor with the ability to play different positions. Alston Jr. is a natural born leader and a big reason this team is in the position they’re in. He’s a guy that can create off the dribble or be a lockdown defender. More importantly, he can rally a team to accomplish incredible things. He’s said to be an amazing player and an even better person.