UCF (12-4, 3-1), winners of its last three games and eight of its last nine overall, improved to 3-1 in American Athletic Conference play, while Temple (7-8, 0-4), fell to 0-4 after the defeat.
“Today was just like league play is every night,” Dawkins said after the game. “You know it’s going to be tough. It’s always going to be tough. I think our defense was locked in and made it difficult, and it led to some easy baskets for us at times. I’m just really proud of our guys’ overall effort.”
The effort was there all afternoon. The Knights, who are averaging just 47.5 points per game allowed during league play, held the Owls to their lowest scoring effort in 2017-18. Temple’s worst scoring performance prior to Sunday was a 53-point outing against Cincinnati.
Temple came into the game averaging 71.0 points per game, but UCF held the Owls’ top three scorers to a combined six points. Obi Enechionyia, Shizz Alston Jr. and Quinton Rose each scored just two points in the game.
“(We were) as good defensively as we’ve been all year and we’ve had some good defensive moments,” Dawkins said. “Those guys are accomplished scorers and three of the best players in our league, so I was really happy with our guys’ overall effort. We really locked in defensively. They knew the game plan and followed the scouting report very well.”
Freshman Ceasar DeJesus finished the day with three steals and played a key role in helping to contain the highly touted Temple guards.
“Defense is always going to be there, no matter what,” DeJesus said. “It’s something you have got to put effort into, and that’s what we did in the first half. We took care of the ball in the second half, and we turned up the intensity on the defensive end and cut their water off.”
As has been the case when the Knights have played well, the offense did what it needed to when the time came. On Sunday, UCF used a 16-0 first half run to turn a six-point deficit into a 10-point lead just before the break.
Junior Dayon Griffin came off the bench to score eight of the 16 points during the spurt and give UCF the advantage.
“When I come in the game I just think how can I get us going,” Griffin said. “We know we are going to hit shots, we know shots are going to start falling for us. So we just try to turn it up on the defensive end. But when shots are going in, it does make you feel good out there. It helps you on defense too.”
Griffin’s shots went in. The St. Petersburg, Fla, native went 6-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc to lead all players with 15 points in the game. It was his fifth time in double figures in the last six games and was just one point off of his season high.
“I’m really happy for Dayon,” Dawkins said. “He is a terrific player. He’s playing at a high level and that’s because he’s making shots. I think he’s doing a lot for us defensively and rebounding. He’s making a lot of plays for us so I’m happy to see him hitting his stride. As he goes, and continues to make the improvements that he’s made this season, I think we just get better.”
UCF’s defense only got better in the second half, as the Knights’ held Temple scoreless for over 10 minutes from 13:54 to 3:40.
It allowed for the Black and Gold to extend its lead even more, using a 14-0 run during the stretch to take 50-31 advantage late in the game. The Knights led by as many as 23 points, before cruising to the 60-39 victory.
DeJesus was solid in the second half, scoring seven of his 13 points to lead the Knights to the win. The redshirt freshman was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line and had two assists to go with his three steals.
“I think he’s done a really good job for us,” Dawkins said of DeJesus. “He’s been very solid offensively. He’s really picked it up defensively by making a lot more plays. It’s kind of fun for me to watch the growth a young player goes through during the course of the season. From where he started the season to where he is now, it’s night and day on both sides of the basketball and that’s fun to watch.”
The Knights held Temple to just 32.1 percent shooting from the floor, 18.2 percent from beyond the arc, and allowed the Owls to get to the line just one time. UCF forced 19 Temple turnovers, which led to 20 Knight points.
UCF will next hit the road to take on UConn. The Knights and the Huskies square off Wednesday at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
Season tickets for the 2017-18 campaign are on sale now. Fans looking to purchase tickets can call (407) 823-1000 or visit UCFKnights.com to secure them today. For men’s basketball tickets CLICK HERE.