Many fans expected the Temple Basketball team to be celebrating Senior Night (aka Dalton Pepper Night) after a win over Central Florida. Not many fans expected the Owls to be celebrating just their eighth win of the season that night.
But hey, a win is a win right?
It was another poor (very poor) defensive effort from the Owls, and it took overtime to decide a victor, but Temple knocked off the UCF Golden Knights 86-78 on Tuesday night.
Offensively, Temple may have had their best game all season. Anthony Lee posted his 11th double-double of the year putting up 20 points and 10 boards. Pepper scored a game high 26 points on his senior night. Will Cummings added 23 points giving the Owls three scores of 20 or more, the second time the Cherry and White have done that this season.
Free throws were the real story of the game for the Owls, though. Temple shot almost 85% from the charity stripe Tuesday. The Owls average about 71% from the line this season, so they stepped up in hopes of getting the Levittown, PA native the win on his Senior Night.
The game was tight from the start. Neither team had more than a six point lead in the first half. Temple looked like they were going into the half up six before Philadelphia native Calvin Newell banked in a three at the buzzer.
Newell’s friends and family were in attendance and he put on a show for them. Newell was five for eight behind the arc and totaled 23 points, a team high.
The Knights hit seven threes in the first half, highlighting Temple’s defensive struggles.
The Owls went on a 10-0 run early in the second half, including threes from Pepper and Mark Williams, to give Temple an 11 point lead. UCF came storming back behind two trey balls from Matt Williams, bringing the Knights within one halfway through the second.
The game was tied at 68 after four different lead changes throughout the final 10 minutes. Lee made a layup with 1:14 to go in the game, to give Temple a two point lead.
There was no scoring from then until UCF had the ball with the shot clock off in crunch time. Newell drove the lane and was fouled by Cummings with five seconds left on the clock and the Knights in the double bonus.
That is the type of basketball Temple has played all year. Newell hit both free throws and sent the game to overtime.
When I said free throws were the story of the game for the Owls, overtime showed why. Temple scored 16 points in overtime and 12 of the points were free throws. The Owls went 12-13 from the line in OT. They also stepped up their defense a bit it seemed, as UCF shot just 25% from the field in the extra time.
Despite the win, the Owls still continued to struggle from three, shooting 27% for the game. Pepper went three for 11 from behind the arc as his three point woes continued.
If Temple wants to compete in the conference tournament, they need to shoot at least 15% better from behind the arc. If the Owls do that and play better defensively, maybe they can surprise some people by making a run in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
Before that, the Owls look to get back to back wins for (sigh) just the second time this season as they head to Tampa to take on South Florida this Saturday in the regular season finale.