ORLANDO, Fla. — Can UCF get some national attention, now?
Faced with their first conference test, the UCF Knights obliterated Temple, 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 [nationally],” 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 the first points were scored, UCF ran out to a double-digit lead with 15 consecutive points. Temple would never break within ten for the remainder.
“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 capitalized “and-one” pushed the advantage to a new height, 27-7, with 6:49 remaining in the first half. The Knights continued to march forward, leading by an unfathomable score of 38-11 at halftime.
Temple shot a horrid 13.8% in the first half. In fact, the Knights’ Williams single-handily outscored the Owls, 14-11.
In the second half, UCF quickly advanced the margin to thirty. 5 of Fall’s 13 second-half points swiftly put the Knights up 46-15. Williams’ third triple supplied a game-high 34-point lead.
Although the Owls shot much better in the second half (45.7%), UCF countered at 46.2%. The Knights’ winning streak was in route to four.
“From the jump,” said Fall of when he felt his team gained control of the tempo. “We even talked about it before the game started: We have to come in and lock in.”
Temple superstar Obi Enechionyia struggled to 4 points. When the junior was not on the bench because of foul trouble, he was 1-for-3 from the field in 15 minutes of action. Enechionyia has been going through a rough patch 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 UCF’s 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.”
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 Tacko Fall and Matt Williams. Fall grabbed 7 rebounds while Williams pulled down 4.
Tank Efianayi stuffed the stat-sheet with 12 points and 7 rebounds and Chad Brown added 8 points and 6 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 9-6 (0-2) Temple, the Owls dropped their second consecutive conference matchup. Fran Dunphy’s squad will have no time to wallow in defeat. A meeting in Dallas versus highly-regarded SMU awaits on Wednesday.
11-3 (2-0) UCF moved to 7-1 at home this afternoon. The Knights will look to extend their current winning streak to five when hosting East Carolina on Tuesday.
– P. Wesner