PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Dalton Pepper scored 26 points and Will Cummings had 23 to lead Temple to an 86-78 overtime victory over Central Florida on Tuesday night.
Anthony Lee scored 20 points for the Owls (8-21, 3-14 American Athletic Conference). Lee converted a three-point play with 1:07 left in OT to stretch the lead to 78-74 and help the Owls snap a three-game losing streak.
Calvin Newell led the Knights (11-17, 3-14) with 23 points and Kasey Wilson had 14.
The Owls are already guaranteed their worst season in 117 years of the program’s history. They lost 20 games for the first time, ending a run of six straight 20-win seasons. The Owls were one of only eight schools to make the NCAA tournament each of the last six years.
Barring a stunning run through the AAC tournament, the streak is over.
The Knights played without leading scorer Isaiah Sykes (16.1 points) because of a foot injury. Sykes had 23 points and 15 rebounds in the Knights’ 78-76 win over Temple on Jan. 4.
Without him, the Knights needed late 3s in regulation from Newell and Eugene McCrory to get back in the game.
Newell, a Philly native, hit two tying free throws with 4.7 seconds left in regulation. UCF’s Staphon Blair blocked Cummings’ drive to the hoop just as time expired to send the game to OT.
The Owls did enough in OT to at least give the few fans who attended (the Owls average only 6,109 fans a game) a reason to cheer in the home finale.
The Owls, playing the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation based on RPI, lost their experienced core of Khalif Wyatt, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Scootie Randall and T.J. DiLeo. They helped the Owls go 24-10 last season, and they took top-seeded Indiana down to the wire in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Wyatt, the A-10 player of the year, was a 20.5 points-per-game scorer. Hollis-Jefferson led the Owls in 3-point shooting and DiLeo was a stout defender.
Coach Fran Dunphy has won regular-season and conference-tournament championships with the Owls, has had them ranked in the poll, and had established one of the more respected programs in the nation.
Dunphy had never lost 20 games over a 25-year career that included NCAA trips with Temple and Penn. He knew this would be a rebuilding season, his most challenging one since he went 12-18 in 2006-07, his first one at Temple when he took over for Hall of Fame coach John Chaney.
Dunphy couldn’t have expected it would be this bad.
The Owls entered with four of the top 15 scorers in the AAC — but with the worst defense in the conference, allowing 78 points a game.
The head-scratching plays have piled up at a surprising rate for a Dunphy team: Pepper grabbed a rebound off an airball late in the first half, then promptly stepped out of bounds.
With only nine available players, the thin roster has cost Temple down the stretch of tight games, as the starters log heavy minutes.
But help is on the way. Highly-touted recruit Obi Enechionyia is on the way and former Texas forward Jaylen Bond and Clemson transfer Devin Coleman will all join the program at some point next season. Pepper, Temple’s leading scorer, is the lone senior on the roster.
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