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Temple earns first conference win at home vs. UCF

The Owls' defense limited Central Florida's best scorer en route to one of their best performances this season.

J.P. Moorman, right, and the Temple  celebrate as they pulled ahead of Central Florida during the 2nd half at the Liacouras Center on Jan. 14,, 2021.
J.P. Moorman, right, and the Temple celebrate as they pulled ahead of Central Florida during the 2nd half at the Liacouras Center on Jan. 14,, 2021.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Temple freshman Jeremiah Williams got a steal as the momentum started to swing in the Owls’ favor on Thursday afternoon. He raced down the court. He could have challenged Central Florida’s Dre Fuller one-on-one at the basket.

Instead, Williams slowed down as senior De’Vondre Perry came racing down the opposite side of the court. Williams dumped a bounce pass to Perry that resulted in an emphatic dunk.

It was a confidence-boosting play and part of Temple’s 11-0 second-half run.

The improved second-half play by Perry and Williams was a key in Temple’s 62-55 win over UCF at the Liacouras Center.

“We did a great job of following the scouting report, knowing who the shooters were and just knowing guys’ tendencies,” senior J.P. Moorman said.

Perry came alive in the second half. In the first, he was 0-for-4 with a doughnut in the scoring column, but he scored 10 points after the break. Williams finished with 12 points and four assists and was a team-high plus-15 in 30 minutes.

“I thought he was OK,” Owls coach Aaron McKie said of Williams. “I thought he was tremendous defensively. He’s got to be a two-way player for us.”

Temple’s defense held UCF (3-4, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) to 33% shooting. The Knights’ leading scorer, Brandan Mahan, was averaging 17.5 points per game. Temple held him to four points on 1-for-9 shooting.

The Owls had a minor scare in the final two minutes. Leading 58-48, Temple (2-3, 1-3) proceeded to miss the front end of three straight one-and-ones. UCF countered with a 7-0 run and got the ball back with 24 seconds left, trailing 58-55. The Knights turned the ball over.

Damian Dunn continues to pace the Owls’ offense. He scored a team-high 20 points on 6-for-14 shooting.

Teams are becoming more aware of the threat Brendan Barry provides from the three-point line. He made two threes in the first half, but he couldn’t get many open looks. Even with Barry’s limited output, the Owls had one of their best shooting games. Six players made triples as the Owls shot 40.9% from three.

“We’re starting to build a little more trust in each other as the season continues,” Dunn said. “That’s really a big part of how well we’re going to shoot the ball.”

Temple won this game with its defense. UCF’s 55 points was the lowest total allowed by the Owls this season. Moorman did a lot of the dirty work as he finished with a team-high 13 rebounds, a block, and two steals.

“We have to work off of this game and say, hey guys, this is the standard,” McKie said. “This is where we want to be from a defensive standpoint. We’ll give ourselves a chance to be in games when our offense is not connected. If we can defend the way we did throughout this game, we’ll be in most of the games.”