ORLANDO — The way Temple coach Aaron McKie sees it, senior guard Quinton Rose needs to “get dirty,” and have his “prints all over the place” in each game for the Owls to be successful.
Rose finally did that Tuesday at Central Florida.
After struggling for most of the American Athletic Conference opener against the Knights, Rose took over the final five minutes for the Owls and as a result Temple escaped with a 62-58 victory.
“That’s part of his job. … He made some big plays for us down the stretch, made some big free throws …” McKie said of Rose, who ended the game with 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including 6 of 7 on free throws. “I wasn’t really pleased with how he played the first half, which I thought got us in trouble and I just reminded him of that.”
Rose had just eight points in the game’s first 35 minutes, but he scored eight of Temple’s final 11 points, six of which came in the last three minutes. It was his steal and traditional three-point play at the other end that gave the Owls their first lead since midway through the first half, and they were able to hold on from there.
“We’re trying to get him a little dirty,” McKie said of Rose, who also had a key blocked shot with 1:12 left that kept UCF scoreless for the final 3½ minutes. “He’s got to do everything for us … rebound, he’s got to defend, he’s got to lead out on the floor, make big free throws for us, make big shots. That’s the responsibility that comes with a guy who’s a senior and that’s played a lot of basketball at this university.
“It’s growth and he’s continuing to grow with each game.”
It wasn’t exactly a pretty victory for the Owls (9-3), but McKie was happy to just escape with the win. The Owls had 17 turnovers, shot just 37.7% from the field (20 of 53), hit just 7-of-21 three-pointers and missed eight free throws (15 of 23).
“I’ll take it,” McKie laughed. “It’s better than getting on the plane, going back home with a loss. The guys did battle. We figured coming into this game that this team was pretty good defensively …
“In conference games, it comes down to the last five minutes of games. … We were able to get control of this one and close it out, so we’re learning how to win and it gave us our first conference game, so I’ll take it.”
UCF scored just two points in the final 5:40 of the game, missing all three of its field goals and turning the ball over five times.
“We realized they were going to try to get the ball down to Collin Smith,” McKie said of the UCF center, who battled foul trouble throughout. “J.P. Moorman and Dre Perry did a wonderful job … just trying to front him and just be physical with him as much as possible. … I think it disrupted the flow of their offense.”
Fortunately for game officials, a controversial decision midway through the second half had no bearing on the final score, but it very well could have.
Officials took Temple points off the board with 12:18 left to play and Temple trailing 42-39. Referees allowed Rose to shoot a pair of free throws following a flagrant foul call on UCF’s Avery Diggs. After Rose made the free throws, however, the officials decided to review the play and took the points away when it was determined that Temple’s Jake Forester should have been the shooter. He made 1 of 2 free throws.
“I said, ‘Come on, guys,'” McKie said of the referees. “I have never seen this happen in a college game before. I was like, ‘Leave the points on the board,’ and say, ‘All right, it’s our mistake. We’re going to leave the points on the board and we’re gonna move on with the rest of the game.’
“But to take the points off the board? … They said it’s a correctable error.”
UCF had the Owls on their heels early, controlling most of the first 10 minutes with a crisp passing game that kept producing easy baskets. Meanwhile, on the other end, Temple had trouble getting the ball through the rim, hitting just three of its first 11 shots. The Knights eventually jumped out to a 17-8 lead, but that was before Josh Pierre-Louis got hot.
UCF’s spread-out zone defense was effective in limiting Temple early, but the freshman guard found the answer. He capped a 10-0 run with back-to-back three-pointers and the Owls pulled back into the lead 18-17 with 9:50 left in the first half.
That spurt kept Temple close in the first half, but the Owls didn’t shoot a lot better after the run, scoring just 10 more points and trailing at the break, 33-28. Temple shot 35.5% in the first half (10-of-29) and made only 4 of 10 free throws.
“We didn’t attack it the way we should have,” McKie said of his team’s early, stagnant ball movement. “I thought we did a really good job later on in the second half.”