Temple hosts No. 25 UCF in Dunphy's home finale
Temple could be playing for its NCAA Tournament life when it hosts No. 25 UCF on Saturday afternoon in a matchup of two of the top four American Athletic Conference teams.
The game also will mark the home coaching finale of Temple's Fran Dunphy, a Philadelphia legend who is stepping down after this season.
Dunphy, who played for La Salle, was the head coach at Penn for 17 seasons (1989-2006) and has led the Temple program for the past 13 seasons. Dunphy, 70, has gone 269-160 with the Owls and is 579-323 in his career.
The Owls (22-8, 12-5 AAC) remained in the conversation for an at-large spot in the 68-team field with their 78-71 victory at Connecticut on Thursday night; a win over the Knights (23-6, 13-4) would go a long way toward sealing the deal.
A loss at the Liacouras Center on Temple's campus in Philadelphia might not eliminate the Owls from the bubble talk, but they don't want to take any chances.
"I want to get to the tournament," Temple senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. told a CBS Sports Network audience after scoring a career-high 34 points in the win over UConn. "I want to get off the bubble and get to the tournament."
The victory clinched a bye into the quarterfinals of next week's AAC Tournament in Memphis, where the Owls will have the fourth seed in the event.
The Knights will have at least the third seed by virtue of their 58-55 win over second-place Cincinnati on Thursday night, and they could get the No. 2 spot with a win over Temple if No. 20 Cincinnati beats Houston on Saturday.
Both the Knights and Owls seem to be peaking at the right time.
"I think our guys have really been focused," UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said before the Knights continued their recent run with the win over the Bearcats. "We realized that we had a tough schedule coming down the stretch, but we used that as an opportunity.
"Our guys have approached each one of them the right way. They've come out, they've been focused, and they knew they had to win together. They've come out and they've played well off each other. And they've defended. As I always tell you, it starts at that end of the floor."
The Knights have won four games in a row and seven of their last eight outings. The win over Cincinnati, coupled with the one over then-No. 8 Cincinnati in their previous meeting, marks the first time the Knights have defeated two ranked teams in the same season.
Guard B.J. Taylor has averaged 18.6 points over the last six games, about two over his season average, and center Tacko Fall has been a key contributor recently. In addition to his ability to clog the lane, the 7-foot-6 senior had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds against Houston and followed with 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots against Cincinnati.
Fall had 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the first meeting with Temple -- a 78-73 UCF win in Orlando on Jan. 2.
"Tacko Fall is a hard guy to play against," Alston said, "but I think we're ready."
Temple comes into the game having won five of its past six games, scoring at least 78 points in four of the wins.
"We got stops and picked it up," Alston said of the performance against UConn. "When we do that, we're a pretty hard team to beat."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 8, 2019