UCF, Temple eager to get back on the floor

NCAA

UCF and Temple are looking to get more basketball games under their belts in their 2020-21 seasons.

The two teams have played the fewest games in the American Athletic Conference — UCF in six, Temple just four — and take on each other Thursday in a contest that was originally scheduled for Wednesday night.

After dropping two straight, UCF coach Johnny Dawkins is looking for his squad to start winning again in Philadelphia.

Having had three of their last four games postponed, the Knights (3-3, 1-2 AAC) faced rival South Florida in Tampa in their most recent outing, dropping a 68-61 decision on Jan. 2.

Darius Perry played all 40 minutes and led the team with a game-best 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.

However, UCF went just 9-for-25 (36 percent) from the field in the second half and squandered a 35-34 halftime lead.

“I just thought they made more plays than us in the second half,” Dawkins said of USF. “They were a more physical team. We got a little worn down in the second half.”

Brandon Mahan, who topped the AAC in scoring at 22.3 point per game in his first four outings, struggled for the second consecutive game, scoring just two points vs. USF, and now ranks fourth at 17.5 per game.

He has combined to produce only 15 points in the last two games — both losses — and posted 13 points against Houston.

“He just needs to stay aggressive and not get lost in the game. It’s a mindset you have to have,” said Dawkins.

Temple (1-3, 0-3) had two games — against Memphis on Jan. 2 and at Tulane on Jan. 6 — postponed due to a positive COVID-19 case within its program and subsequent contact tracing.

The Owls’ last two games were losses — to SMU 79-71 at home on Dec. 30, and 79-68 in Dallas on Monday — with Brendan Barry pacing the scoring for Temple in both defeats.

Barry scored a team-best 17 points and knocked down 5 of 10 3-pointers in the first loss to SMU, then added 17 more on Monday.

Owls coach Aaron McKie said his young roster needs to learn how to close out games and record wins.

“This is new to them,” said McKie. “We’ll get better from learning. We’ll get better as a team.”

Said Barry: “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

–Field Level Media

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