Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics
By John Weis (’94)
Next UCF Opponent: Temple Owls (15-14, 9-7 AAC)
2021-2022 Record: 14-17 (9-9 WAC)
Coach: Aaron McKie (4th Season, 51-54)
Last Game: 2/22 at Cincinnati (L, 88-83 OT)
Opening Tip: 7:00, Liacouras Center, Philadelphia (TV: ESPNU)
Opponent at a Glance
The fortunes of both UCF and Temple have taken a dramatic downturn since their first meeting in late January, which was won by the Owls in overtime on UCF’s home floor. That win, their fourth straight, made Temple 8-2 in the AAC at the time, but they’ve dropped five of six games since – the only win coming against Tulsa.
What brought about Temple’s collapse? For starters, leading scorer Khalif Battle, who had 26 in the first meeting against the Knights, was lost for the season shortly thereafter with a broken bone in his foot. The Owls have found it difficult to replace his 17.9 points per game. It also was likely no coincidence that their schedule was somewhat front-loaded with weaker teams, and they seemed to come out on the winning end of one close game after another.
The good news for Owl fans is, the nucleus of this team is very young – they are loaded with Sophomores. If they can keep the band together the next couple seasons and add another key piece or two, they could be a difficult opponent in the soon-to-be watered-down AAC.
Now leading the charge for the Owls is 6’5” Sophomore guard Damion Dunn (15.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), who scored 34 in their last outing, an overtime loss to Cincinnati. He’s followed by former Knight Jamille Reynolds (9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg), a 6’10” Sophomore who also missed significant time earlier this year due to thumb surgery. He injured the digit in a late-November game against Drexel and did not return to action until January 25.
Other major contributors include 6’7” Sophomore Zack Hicks (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.6 apg), followed by 6’1” Sophomore Hysier Miller (8,9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.8 apg); 6’8” Sophomore Nick Jourdain (6.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.2 apg); 6’7” Sophomore Jahlil White (5.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.9 apg); and 6’9” Senior Kur Jongkuch (2.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg).
With the win over Tulsa in their last game, the Knights ensured that they’ll finish with a winning record. They’re now 16-12 with two regular-season games left prior to the AAC Tournament.
Last season, the teams split a pair of games. UCF took the Owls apart in Philly during the first meeting, winning 65-48. Brandon Mahan had 18, Darin Green Jr. scored 17, and Tyem Freeman had a big effort off the bench with 14. Unfortunately, Temple won the rematch by four points on UCF’s home court; and I’ve already mentioned what happened in this season’s initial matchup.
Speaking of that game earlier in the season, you may recall the rather wacky end of regulation. Darius Johnson needed to make both free throws to tie the score in the closing seconds. When he missed the first free throw, all looked lost until he intentionally missed the second one, rebounded his own miss and drew another foul. This time, he sank both attempts to force overtime.
Ironically, the Knights finished that game with 70 points, the same number of points UCF’s football team inflicted upon Temple during AAC play in the 2022 season.
Temple leads the all-time matchup 11 games to seven.
This season, Temple is averaging 70.1 points per game while giving up 69.8. In conference play, they have scored 70.6 points per game while surrendering 70.0.
The ESPN matchup predictor gives the Knights a 56.6 percent chance to win.
In the first Temple game preview I chronicled the career and sometimes volatile temper of Owls legendary coach John Chaney. But did you know there’s another Temple coach besides Chaney that’s a Hall of Famer? Me, either. He’s none other than Harry “The Chief” Litwack, who coached the Owls from 1952-1973, compiling a record of 373-193 along the way. He had only one losing season, guided the Owls to 13 postseason tournaments (including one NIT Championship), and two NCAA Final Fours. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Most basketball fans are familiar with Aaron McKie as the current coach at Temple, but unless you’re a bit older you might not remember McKie the star Owl player, or his long and successful NBA career. As a collegiate for the Owls, he played in 92 games (starting in all of them) and averaged 17.9 points and 6.4 rebounds over three seasons. He was chosen 17th overall by Portland in the 1994 NBA draft.
He played 13 seasons for the Blazers, Pistons, Sixers and Pacers. Though he was a competent scorer (7.4 points per game over his career), it was his performance on the defensive end of the floor that earned him major accolades from coaches and teammates, and kept him employed for so long. During the 2000-2001 season with Philadelphia, he was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Legendary star Allen Iverson had this to say about McKie upon Iverson’s retirement, getting emotional when asked which teammate meant the most to him.
John Weis is a freelance Writing/PR professional. His company, Weis Words (www.weiswords.biz) serves national clients such as advertising agencies, public relations firms and sports organizations, as well as small businesses and private individuals. A native Central Floridian and basketball enthusiast, he spent six seasons as Broadcast Coordinator for the Orlando Magic Radio Network early in his career. He graduated from UCF in 1994 with a degree in Communications and can’t wait for the Knights to move to the Big XII.