ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team came back from an 11-day hiatus to open up American Athletic Conference play with a home victory over visiting Temple, winning 78-73 and improving to 11-2 overall Wednesday at CFE Arena.
“It’s conference play and you can see how competitive our league is,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Fran (Dunphy) has a really good team and they had a good preseason and we just beat a really good basketball team tonight. I was proud of our guys’ effort.”
There was some rust to knock off, but it wasn’t in the form of shooting, as the Knights went 29-of-48 from the floor. UCF recorded a season-best 60.4 percent for the game and went 4-of-11 from beyond the arc.
The Knights led by as many as 13 points in the second half, holding off a late Temple run for the five-point win. UCF outscored the Owls 44-16 in the paint and 19-9 off of turnovers to earn its first victory of conference play and its fifth straight overall.
“Our guys were able to really lock in and when we did have good offensive possessions, we maximized them as was evident by our overall field goal percentage,” Dawkins said. “So when we got the ball where we wanted to get it to, I thought we were pretty efficient.”
There was a bit of rust at the free throw line, where the Knights went just 16-of-28 for 57.1 percent. Some might think that was a bit more normal for UCF, who shoots just 63.3 percent for the year, but the Knights had shot over 70 percent from the line in four of their last five games.
Senior BJ Taylor was one of the culprits, who was 7-of-12 from the stripe. He made up for it elsewhere, though, leading UCF with 24 points on an identical 7-of-12 from the floor. Taylor also went 3-of-7 from long range and had two assists in the win.
UCF put all five starters in double figures, including senior Tacko Fall, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. The 7-foot-6 center also added three blocks and two assists for the Knights.
“I thought BJ down the stretch was clutch for us and I thought Tacko’s entire game had a huge presence,” Dawkins said. “It might be one of the best games he has played for us in his career here.”
Collin Smith added 12, Terrell Allen had 11 and tied a season-high with seven assists, and Aubrey Dawkins finished in double figures for the 13th straight game, totaling 10 points with three assists.
“It feels good. We wanted to come out and get off to a good start tonight,” Taylor said. “Give a lot of credit to Temple, they came out and played real hard and shot the ball well, but it’s definitely good for us to come and get this first win.”
The Owls (10-3) stayed in the game with some of their best three-point shooting of the season. Temple went 13-of-27 from beyond the arc, but got outrebounded 31-23 against the Knights.
Nate Pierre-Louis led the way with 21 points, while Shizz Alston Jr. had 18 and Quinton Rose totaled 17 in the loss.
UCF will have a quick turnaround, heading up to UConn for a Saturday contest in Hartford. The Knights and the Huskies tip-off at noon from the XL Center on ESPNews.