The Temple Owl fans surrounded the players and flooded the entire stretch of the court after their upset win over UCF, 67-62. The Owls managed to outlast the UCF Knight’s in a game that held so much meaning for Temple and their brand of basketball. This win was for the naysayers. This win was for Al Shrier. This win was for Fran Dunphy. This win was for Shizz Alston and Ernest Aflakpui. This win came full circle and provided a storybook finish to a great regular season for the Temple Owls.
The Final 7 Minutes
The game was very close down the stretch, neither team able to score with ease. Both teams were knotted at 52 before Quinton Rose dunked on a member of the UCF basketball team, to get the crowd at the Liacouras Center on their feet.
After a quiet and frustrating first half for Rose, it got him and his team rolling for a wild finish. Rose had a huge part in getting the team the win, as he had nine second-half points. Following his posterization, Justyn Hamilton, who tied his career high of 13 points, got a nice rebound and put back to increase their lead to four, 56-52. However, after a few questionable calls from the officials, the Knights found themselves back in this one, and gaining momentum.
The Knights and referees could not be prepared for the fast-paced play of the Owls. The hustle and determination to win helped the Owls get offensive rebounds, steals, and tough shots to fall late in the contest.
UCF’s Aubrey Dawkins was the main reason that the Knights were even in the game to begin with. The coach’s son was able to hit nearly every shot he took. Dawkins ended with 36 points, but arguably his most important shot came when he hit a three to bring his team within five. Dawkins hit a three to make it 61-56 with 29 seconds left, forcing the Owls to change their game plan entirely.
With Dawkins hitting the shots late, they had to contest him so that they could outlast UCF. Luckily there were no errors on the offensive side for the Owls, and they were able to get to the free throw line and increase their lead.
However, even doing that proved to be risky, as Dawkins hit yet another three, this time with 18 seconds left. Dawkins made it a three-point game, 62-59.
Eventually, the Owls were able to escape with the win, as J.P. Moorman II and Shizz Alston, Jr. had late free throws to ice the game. Moorman played an exceptionally well game, as he ended with 10 points, as well as being a big body on the glass with five rebounds.
Alston also showed out on his Senior Day, ending with a team-high 21 points.
First Half Grit
The Owls had a nice turning point at the end of the first half. They went into the break leading 35-34 due to the great first half performances that were turned in by Alston, Moorman, and Hamilton. The Owls did trail early on in the contest, 15-7 after UCF was hitting their shots. However, an 8-0 run, that was mainly due to Moorman, helped pull them out of the early rut.
Not a Single Dry Eye
The pregame festivities included a tribute to the Seniors, and Philadelphia basketball legend, Fran Dunphy. There was another tribute to a man who has had a huge impact on the Temple athletic department. Since 1953, the late Al Shrier has been a part of the Temple athletic department. Shrier was a graduate of Temple, who immediately started to work for the Owls upon graduation. He was the sports information director for 65 years and retired last June. Sadly, Shrier, who was 88 years old, passed away on Monday, March 4. In the first home game since his passing, the Owls and their fanbase honored him with an emotional moment of silence.
This final home game marked an end of an era for basketball in the city of Philadelphia. The win over UCF marked the final home game for Head Coach Fran Dunphy who has coached the Owls for 13 seasons. Dunphy coached at the University of Pennsylvania prior to Temple University. Dunphy’s legacy runs deep in Philadelphia and certainly in the game of basketball.
As a tribute to Dunphy’s career, the team displayed a number of tribute videos from various basketball icons across the country, honoring his career. Included in this was NBA Coaches Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, who respectful honored Dunphy, as well as, Brett Brown from the Philadelphia 76ers who kindly thanked Dunphy.
Dunphy was also honored from his opposing coach in Saturday’s contest. Johnny Dawkins, the UCF Head Coach, and retired NBA player had some nice things to say when describing what Dunphy means to the game of basketball.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Dunphy,” said Dawkins. “He always treated me great, always willing to help, very supportive, and amazing teacher, so I have a great deal of respect for him.”
Dunphy certainly earned the respect of his peers, fans, and the many athletes he has coached over the years. The fitting send-off was well earned by the Philadelphia legend. Coach Dunphy certainly appreciated the ovation he received and after the game, he reflected strongly about what his tenure in this city has meant to him.
“I’ve been so fortunate over my career,” said Dunphy. “I’ve been at two wonderful institutions, in a great city…this city means a lot to me.”
Temple’s head coach was not the only one who got a proper send-off from the home crowd. Playing in their last game at the Liacouras Center, Seniors, Shizz Alston, Jr. and Ernest Aflakpui were honored before Saturday’s game.
Alston, a Philadelphia native, loved the crowd’s intensity for what was one of his biggest games as an Owl.
“That probably was the best crowd I’ve had in my four years here,” said Alston.
While the two Seniors were honored, as well as the head coach, the Owls still have plenty of work ahead of them. One of Alston’s goals all season long has been to make it to the March Madness tournament. With this win over a ranked team, many around college basketball feel as though this may be enough for the Owls to get into the tournament.
After the game, he felt as though they have done enough up to this point.
“I think we in right now,” said Alston as he smiled. “I said if we beat UCF and finished out with no bad losses, then we are in.
Next up for the Owls is the AAC Tournament that is being held down in Memphis starting on March 14. The Owls will have a first-round bye in that tournament and are the third seed so they will not be playing until March 15. In that Friday game, they will either face off against Wichita State or ECU. Until then, the Owls have plenty of time to work on their game and get ready to make a run at the AAC Tournament. Quinton Rose surely has some goals in mind for his team.
“We want to make the NCAA tournament, but I think we also want a conference championship,” said Rose.
Selection Sunday is on March 17 this year, which is also the final day of the AAC Tournament. The Owls will have to wait until then to find out their fate. However, there is a very good chance that they already solidified their spot in the tournament.