Defense propels UCF past Temple, 77-53

Photo courtesy of Alex Menendez and Getty.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Faced with their first real conference test, the UCF Knights (11-3, 2-0) obliterated Temple (9-6, 0-2), 77-53. Senior Matt Williams and sophomore Tacko Fall led the charge with 17 points apiece.

“We are so engrossed in what we’re doing, I haven’t had the chance to really think about what it means,” said UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins. “Every practice, every game, our goal is to go out and get better.”

The Knights started the game with three empty possessions, allowing the Owls to score the first basket. Once points were scored, UCF ran out to a double-digit lead with 15 consecutive points. Temple would never come within ten for the remainder of the afternoon.

“This was one of the best defensive efforts I have seen our team have all season long,” Dawkins said. “I thought our first-half defense was the best its been.”

A Tacko Fall three-point play pushed the advantage to a new height, 27-7, with 6:49 remaining in the first half. The Knights continued to march forward, leading, 38-11, at halftime.

Temple shot a horrid 13.8% in the first half. In fact, UCF’s Williams single-handily outscored the Owls, 14-11, through the opening twenty minutes.

In the second half, UCF quickly advanced the margin to thirty points. Five of Fall’s 13 second-half points swiftly put the Knights up, 46-15. Williams’ third triple supplied a game-high 34-point advantage.

Although the Owls shot much better in the second half (45.7%), UCF had no trouble en route to its fourth straight win.

“From the jump,” said Fall of when he felt his team gained control. “We even talked about it before the game started: we have to come in and lock in.”

Temple superstar Obi Enechionyia struggled to four points. When the junior was not benched because of foul trouble, he was 1-for-3 from the field in 15 minutes of action. Enechionyia has struggled over the past three games. The Virginia native has scored a total of 14 points during the span.

“He’s a very good player,” said Williams. “Our effort was not just to stop the whole team but really disrupt his flow.

“It was more of a collective effort. We worked on it in practice.”

The Owls’ Shizz Alston Jr. scored in double-figures for a sixth straight game. The sophomore posted a team-high 16 points. Redshirt senior Daniel Dingle had 11 points.

UCF was propelled by 17 points apiece from Fall and Williams. Fall grabbed seven rebounds while Williams pulled down four boards. Tank Efianayi stuffed the stat-sheet with 12 points and seven rebounds and Chad Brown added eight points and six rebounds.

“I think Tank is finding himself. He is finding his niche on our team,” Dawkins said of his senior guard. “He has given us a big lift. His energy. He has come off the bench — he gave us a big lift at UMass. He [has] started — he has given us some big moments that have really helped us.”

For Temple, the Owls dropped their second consecutive conference game. Fran Dunphy’s squad will have no time to wallow in defeat. A meeting in Dallas against highly-touted SMU awaits Temple on Wednesday.

UCF moved to 7-1 at CFE Arena this season. The Knights will look to extend their home dominance when hosting East Carolina on Tuesday.

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