By ADAM BOOTH
It has been a rough season on North Broad this year. Temple’s introduction into the American Athletic Conference was not going to be an easy one with the Owls facing top competition all season long. Now the season is drawing to a close, and the Owls had one more home game before closing the regular season and getting ready for the conference tournament.
The Owls are nearing the end of one of their rougher seasons in recent history. Despite that, head coach Fran Dunphy has been impressed with how his team has held together, “I say it’s been rough but they have kept their attitude has been pretty solid along the way.”
But tonight wasn’t just the home finale. It was also the end of Dalton Pepper’s home career in Cherry and White. The senior from wanted to go out in his final game with a bang. He wouldn’t disappoint.
“We needed to get this win for Dalton, we knew we had to step up and makes some plays and we got it done,” said junior Will Cummings.
Temple 86, UCF 78.
The game started out simple enough. Both teams would trade baskets for a majority of the first half. UCF seem to have more of the momentum in the half but Temple never allowed the Golden Knights to stake out to big of lead keeping it close for most of the half.
Eventually a miniature run spurred on by Anthony Lee gave Temple a three point going into half time. It wasn’t a perfect half by Fran Dunphy’s team, but they closed out strong and had some momentum going into the second half.
The Owls shot out of halftime on fire. Their senior, Pepper, sparked the Owls as well as Will Cummings’ hot hand. Temple built its lead as high as six in the early stages. Good inside out play and some nicely timed dishes pushed the Owls ahead. However it was some cold shooting that brought the Golden Knights back in this one.
From that point a shootout was on. Both teams would hit some huge shots down the stretch to keep the game close. It all came down to one final possession. After a made layup by Anthony Lee with only a second left on the shot clock, Temple had 70-68 lead with about 58 seconds left.
Both teams went cold for the final minute, until a foul with 4.7 left put Calvin Newell of UCF at the line down two. He nailed both and sent this game into the extra session.
UCF hit the first shot of OT, but after that it was all Owls. Pepper added to his team high 26 in overtime. Cummings also added to his totals as the Owls put some distance between themselves and the Golden Knights. The senior Pepper hit two free throws to seal the victory on senior night for Temple.
Pepper led the team with 26 points as well as grabbing six rebounds and dishing out four assists. Cummings had 23 points, while Lee had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double.
Temple shot well from the line. The Owls went 22-26 from the stripe, including 12-13 in the overtime to close out the Golden Knights. Coach Dunphy attributed that effort to the victory tonight. “Those were critical. We were struggling offensively when they switched to zone. To make foul shots down the line was critical.”
The Owls will have one more chance to gain momentum before the AAC tournament in Memphis next week. Coach Dunphy has a lot of appreciation for the conference TU finds itself in now. Knowing that the climbing mountain to the top of the conference will be no easy task.
“We need wins; we need some confidence about ourselves.” Said Dunphy
Temple will be in Tampa to take on South Florida in the season finale. Dalton Pepper will have at least two more chances to add to his North Philadelphia legacy.
“We’re trying to end the season on the right note and get a few wins in the conference tournament cause you never know what really happens,” said Pepper