Knights secure 1st American Conference victory
The Knights (9-4, 1-1) registered their first American Athletic Conference win with their nail-biting 78–76 victory over Temple (5-7, 0-2) on Saturday afternoon.
The win against Temple marks the conclusion of a seven-game home stand where the Knights finished 6-1.
Senior guard Isaiah Sykes finished the game tying a season high in scoring with 23 points going 9-17, amassing a season high 15 rebounds, six assists and a steal.
Kasey Wilson finished the game with 18 points on 6-10 shooting, two rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“I thought Sykes played obviously really well and is playing the way we expected him to play, so I’m really proud of how he competed,” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said.
With 5:40 left on the clock, the game was tied 66-66. Two Eugene McCrory free throws would mark the beginning of a run that the Knights would use to take the lead for good.
Throughout the final five minutes of the game, the Knights outscored Temple 12-10. Calvin Newell, who went 3-4 from the line, capped off the run.
“I’m very proud of our guys and the way we grinded. I put one word on the board to start the game and the word was grind,” Jones said. “I knew this team was well coached and obviously had very good players.”
UCF opened up the game against Temple with an 8-0 run over the first three minutes of the game.
The Owls answered with a 27-16 run over a 9-minute span to take a 27-24 the lead.
After losing the lead with 50 seconds left to play in the first half, UCF took the lead back on a Wilson three with just 20 seconds to play.
The Knights led Temple 40-38 going into halftime.
“I was just feeding off my teammates and trying not to do anything I don’t do, and just playing off them and whatever they need me to do, I was trying to do it,” Wilson said. “I was kind of just playing in the offense and if it came to me and I had an open shot I’d take it, or if I felt like I could create something better I would do it.”
Wilson led the Knights in scoring in the first half with 13; however, it was Sykes who recorded a double-double in the first half, scoring 11 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
“It’s good to come back with a win,” Sykes said. “These last two practices have been very aggressive and I think both squads is making each other better.”
The second half picked up right where the first half let off; both teams went back and forth with scoring.
McCrory had a strong outing for the Knights, scoring a career high of 18 points while shooting 60 percent from the field, hauling in 10 rebounds and adding a block.
“[McCrory] lost 21 pounds, and I think he is trying to figure out where he fits in this system,” Jones said. “I think he’s earned the confidence of the coaching staff, and he’s gained the confidence of the players on our team, and he played tonight the way he’s been practicing."
“[McCrory] practices hard and he’s learning to see what’s expected of him. So I was really proud, and he had a double-double tonight and played big when we needed him," Jones said.
Temple was led in scoring by guard Will Cummings, who finished with a game high 31 points. Cummings scored 20 of his 31 points in the first half.
“I love competing and accepting the challenge,” Sykes said. “Coach Jones asked me to step up and check [Cummings]. My focus was just to slow him down and contain him, and my teammates did a good job being there on the help side and putting me in good position to stay in front of him.”
The Knights will go on the road for a two-game stretch where they will play at UConn and at Rutgers.
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