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UCF Drops Conference Opener to Temple

Knights struggle down the stretch

Collin Smith, UCF Basketball
Collin Smith
Derek Warden

The UCF Knights did not close out the final minutes of the final game of the decade like they would have liked. UCF led 56-49 with 5:46 to play in the game, but only scored 2 points the rest of the game and were only able to get three shots off, missing all three, while committing five turnovers and losing 62-58 to Temple in their American Athletic Conference opener.

Here is a breakdown of what went wrong for the Knights:

Experience in closing the game was the difference.

Temple finished the game on a 13-2 run over the last 5:22, led by senior guard Quinton Rose, who scored the final six points of the game and finished with a game-high 16 points plus three steals in the win. Temple’s experienced backcourt made plays down the stretch while the Knights are still not sure who is their go-to guy that can close the game, like B.J. Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins were last season.

UCF lost the battle at the line

Under Johnny Dawkins, UCF has been successful at winning the battle at the free throw line. That is something that Dawkins learned from Coach K at Duke, who believed in that philosophy in helping bringing a W. Today was not that day.

The Knights only went to the line ten times, making four, while Temple went 15 for 23. UCF will not win any game where they lose the free throw battle by this wide of a margin.

Foul trouble for Collin Smith

Collin Smith only played 19 minutes as he was in foul trouble throughout the game, and ended up scoring 10 points on 4/9 from field. Smith clearly was not in rhythm as a result of having to sit for the majority of the game with foul trouble. The Knights will need Smith to avoid picking up early fouls to help the offense be more consistent.

While there were negatives to pick at the loss, there were some positives to take away from the game.

Dre Fuller

Fuller led the Knights with 14 points, going 6/9 from the field, and chipping in with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block as he was clearly the best player for UCF Tuesday.

It is exciting to see Fuller’s growth continue as the future is very bright for him. Hopefully Fuller can be an answer of being one of go to guys down the stretch as he gets more experience.

UCF’s Defense is good

The Knights’ defense will keep them in games for the majority of the conference schedule. They held the Owls to 37% from the field and forced 17 turnovers. That will keep them in games while the offense figures out its identity, especially down the stretch.

Up next for UCF is a two-game road trip, starting with Houston Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2, followed by a trip to Dallas to take on SMU next Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN3, before returning home to take on Cincinnati on Saturday, January 11th at Noon on ESPN2.

We discussed on last week’s Black and Gold Banneret Podcast that with this tough of a start to the conference schedule, if the Knights could go 2-2 in first four games, it would be a success. They can still achieve that, but will need to do better job closing games out.