Riding a five-game win streak, including marquee victories against tenth-ranked Kansas and defending NCAA Champion UConn, the Temple men’s basketball team is starting to garner national attention.
In the latest Associated Press poll released today, the Owls received 33 votes, which would tie them for 31st overall. The USA Today Coaches Poll has Temple with two votes.
The Owls are looking to crack the Top 25 for the first time since March 5, 2012 when the team was ranked #21 by The Associated Press and #24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
The nation’s sixth winningest program with 1,834 victories, Temple has been nationally ranked by the AP in 155 of its weekly polls and in 18 seasons overall. Head coach Fran Dunphy has had his squad ranked in the Top 25 during 24 weeks and three of his nine seasons at the helm.
The Owls (11-4, 2-0 American) travel to Tulane (11-3, 2-0) Wednesday (7:00 p.m. ET/ESPNews/1210 AM WPHT) in a battle for first place in the conference standings.
On Sunday, led by Jaylen Bond’s 21 points and 14 rebounds, the Owls defeated conference foe UCF (7-6, 0-2) 84-78. The Owls also had three other players score in double figures and remain undefeated at home with a record of 7-0.
Will Cummings hit 6-of-8 from the field and 8-of-11 at the line to tie Bond for game-high honors with 21 points, while also dishing five assists for the Owls. Josh Brown hit 4-of-5 field goals and 5-of-6 at the line to add 14 points, and Quenton DeCosey finished with 12.
The Knights scored 13 points in the final minute of the game to make a run, but the Owls’ lead and their free-throw shooting were enough to hold them off. Four players also scored in double figures for UCF, led by B.J. Taylor with 21 points.
For Bond, his 21 points surpassed his previous career high of 18, set more than three years ago at Texas. He also recorded three blocks, while Devontae Watson led all players with four blocks.
Bond scored 13 of the Owls’ first 19 points in the game, surpassing his previous season high in scoring before the midway point of the first half. By halftime, Bond was just one rebound shy of his double-double.
Temple missed its first six shots from the field, but hit 15-of-33 the rest of the way. The Knights stayed with the Owls nearly bucket for bucket for much of the first half, which featured six ties. After the final tie at 22-22 with 7:43 to go, Temple closed the half on a 16-4 run. UCF hit just a single field goal in the final five minutes, while Temple hit a pair of late three-pointers.
The final trey from Daniel Dingle put the Owls ahead by their largest margin of 12, and the 38-26 lead stood at the break.
UCF opened the second half with a 7-0 run to cut Temple’s lead to five, but it would be as close as the Knights would get the rest of the way. Starting with a Cummings jumper at the 17-minute mark, Temple pulled away with a 9-0 run for its largest lead of 14, 49-35 at 15:18.
Bond continued his strong effort, surpassing his previous career high of 18 points near the 11-minute mark, and pulling down his 10th board well before that.
The Knights’ three-point shooting kept them within striking distance down the stretch. Of UCF’s four field goals over a span of two and a half minutes, three were from long range. Two of those helped break up what was otherwise a strong stretch for Temple in the final five minutes, as the Owls got big plays inside from both Cummings and Brown.
DeCosey hit a trey with just under four minutes to go that got Temple back to a 10-point lead, and it was followed by a strong layup from Brown for a 12-point, 75-63 lead at 3:32.
It would be over two minutes before either team scored again. Bond’s final bucket of the game, a dunk with one minute remaining, put Temple ahead by 13.
The Knights made an impressive run over the final minute with five field goals and a pair of free throws, but Cummings hit 4-of-4 at the line to help hold them off.