Temple and UCF nearly exchanged fists a couple times throughout the contest.
In the final two minutes of regulation, they exchanged three-pointers. But Temple couldn’t connect on its attempts at the knockout.
The Owls' two missed shots in the waning seconds cost them the game, as they fell short to UCF on Wednesday, 71-69 (see Instant Replay). It was the Owls’ second consecutive game they’ve dropped with under a minute to go at the Liacouras Center.
Out of the timeout with 13 seconds to go in the game, Daniel Dingle found a wide open Mark Williams on the wing, but his three-pointer rimmed out as Temple (14-15, 5-11 AAC) lost its third consecutive game. Williams finished with 11 points on 5 of 11 shooting off the bench in the contest for the Owls.
"We went to our fifth senior, Dan. We just gave Dan the ball and told him to go make a play," Shizz Alston Jr. said. “He's our leader, he's our fifth-year senior. He made a good play and kicked it to Mark, another senior, and the ball just didn't go in. But it was well-executed. We wouldn't want the ball in two other peoples’ hands, our two leaders."
The lead changed four times in the final two minutes of the contest.
B.J. Taylor drilled a step-back three to give UCF (18-10, 9-7 AAC) a two-point lead with just under two minutes to go in the game.
Obi Enechionyia answered with a three of his own on the ensuing possession to give the Owls a 69-68 lead with 1:27 left in the contest. The junior looked like the player from earlier in the season that received a lot of NBA draft attention.
After shooting the ball 0 for 3 in the first half and turning the ball over two times, Enechionyia finished the game with 17 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal. He also shot 5 of 6 from beyond the arc in the second half.
It was the most points Enechionyia scored since recording a season-high 26 points against Saint Joseph's on Nov. 30.
"It's great to watch him tonight, especially in the second half where he was knocking it out," Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. "If this is 'getting over it,’ that would be great. It would certainly help us through the regular-season games and in the playoffs as well."
Still, Enechionyia’s night wasn’t a complete success. He missed a potential go-ahead jumper with 35 seconds left on the clock.
Temple had a tough time avoiding Tacko Fall throughout the game. At 7-6 and 290 pounds, the Senegal native clogged up a good chunk of the paint. He finished the game with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also had five blocks and two assists.
But when Fall picked up his second foul with just under five minutes to go in the first half, Temple only allowed UCF to score two field goals in the final eight minutes of the frame.
"Tacko's tough," Dunphy said. "We needed help on the back side a little bit more than we go it. He made a couple of dunks that were pretty free and easy. He's so difficult to defend out there and he knows how to play. He's really getting to be a good basketball player in addition to being that size and length that's so intimidating."
Things got pretty chippy in the second half between Alston and Matt Williams. As Williams reeled in a pass on the wing, he brought the ball across his body and hit Alston with his elbow, leaving him with a bloody lip. The two had to be separated as Alston got in Williams’ face after getting off the floor.
The officials ruled the elbow by Williams a basketball play and didn’t call a foul.
Minutes later, Williams shoved Alston near the scorer’s table after he made a steal but this time the officials called it a foul.
"It was just two guys being competitive," Alston said.
Following the incidents between Alston and Williams, fans at the Liacouras Center booed Williams every time he touched the ball. Williams made all but two shots with the boos raining down on him as he scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
Alston was second in scoring for Temple behind Enechionyia with 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting.
With two games remaining on the regular-season schedule before the AAC tournament, Alston believes with the way the Owls played against UCF, they can make a run in the conference tournament.
"We lost this one, but the bright spot, like you guys said, Obi started making shots," Alston said. "When he's making shots, I think we're unbeatable. Even though we lost this one, I'm taking away he had 17 [points] in the second half and I know what he can do when he's hitting shots. He's one of the best players in the country.
"If he's making shots and Dan's playing well, I'm playing well, [Quinton Rose] is playing well, we're a tough team to play. So I think we're going to make a deep run and win the tournament."