Temple outlasts Central Florida in OT

Temple's Anthony Lee celebrates after beating UCF in overtime. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Temple's Anthony Lee celebrates after beating UCF in overtime. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 06, 2014

For the diehards who showed up at the Liacouras Center for the last time this season, the Temple Owls rewarded them Tuesday night with an 86-78 overtime victory over Central Florida.

Playing the last home game of his career, Dalton Pepper led the Owls with 26 points. Anthony Lee contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, while point guard Will Cummings had 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

None of that exactly undoes a historic season of misery, but the Owls (8-21, 3-14) at least have a chance to climb out of the American Athletic Conference cellar when they finish the regular season Saturday at South Florida. UCF and USF also have three league wins.

"It's an important win," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "We need wins. We need to get some more confidence in ourselves."

"We obviously didn't play great," Dunphy added, noting that Central Florida was without leading scorer Isaiah Sykes (foot injury), and coach Donnie Jones, who was out with the flu.

A three-point play by Lee and a Pepper hoop inside were the difference in OT, after Pepper had been honored in a pregame ceremony. The Pennsbury High graduate earned his applause after scoring 17.2 points per game this season, keeping the Owls afloat in many games if not getting them over the top.

Pepper also made a nifty play in regulation that put the Owls up by 70-68 with just over a minute left. With the shot clock running down and UCF's zone keeping the outside sealed, Pepper had the ball up top about 27 feet from the hoop. It looked like he'd have to shoot it.

Instead, he found Lee with a lob. Lee just beat the shot clock with his lay-in.

Dunphy noted the good feeling in the locker room afterward, because Pepper had gone out on a high note.

"He's a tremendous kid, had a great season so far," Dunphy said. "He's given everything he possibly could. . . . They wanted Pep to have this as a going-away present."

"We just want to end the regular season in the right way," Pepper said. "That was a big win for us."

Going in, Temple already had made its case for the worst season in the program's history, since the Owls had never lost 20 in a season through their first 116 campaigns.

Now, they'll be trying to win two games in a row for the first time since Dec. 4.

With reinforcements coming next season, depth won't be an issue. There will be improvement. The big question: Can Temple become a decent defensive unit? That will determine how much improvement there can be.

Tuesday night, Temple was trying to hold an opponent under 50 percent shooting, something the Owls hadn't achieved in their previous three games, when opponents averaged 57.2 percent.

At the end, UCF (11-17, 3-14) shot an even 50 percent, including 11 of 23 three-pointers, but 19 turnovers by the Knights and 17 offensive boards by the Owls evened things out.

There was an announcement Tuesday that Temple will be in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Nov. 21-22 against Duke, UNLV, and Stanford. So we'll find out right away whether the 2014-15 Owls are different than the 2013-14 version.


mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus

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