MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Isaiah Sykes gave the UCF Knights a big reminder of just how important a senior guard can be.
Sykes scored a career-high 36 points with nine rebounds, and the Knights edged eighth-seeded Temple 94-90 Wednesday night in double overtime in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference tournament. Sykes missed the last game between these teams with a foot issue March 4, and Temple won in overtime.
"He played very well," UCF coach Donnie Jones said. "There were a lot of great efforts on our team tonight, but obviously having him, he's been a focal point of our offense in so many different ways. He's very versatile. ... So, not having him there is always an adjustment when you have one of the better players not playing."
No. 9 seed UCF (13-17) won its second straight and third in the last five. The Knights will play top-seeded Cincinnati in the quarterfinals Thursday night.
Tristan Spurlock had 19 points for UCF. Calvin Newell had 13 and Kasey Wilson added 12.
Temple (9-22) had its two-game winning streak snapped.
"We hung in there as well as we possibly could and did some really good things, and then obviously we made a few mistakes that hurt us a bit. I thought there was a number of plays by them that were critical," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
Will Cummings scored 25 points and had nine assists with four steals for Temple before fouling out with 4.2 seconds left. Quenton DeCosey scored a career-high 28 points. Anthony Lee added 17 and Dalton Pepper had 14.
Sykes sent the game into overtime with a free throw with 39.8 seconds left and thought he had beat the buzzer with a jumper to win in regulation. Officials waved it off after a review, and Sykes said he wished it was good.
"But the coaches, they told me it was off late, so we just wanted to get on to the next play," Sykes said. "Get ready to go into the next 5 minutes."
The Knights scored six of the first eight points in overtime only to see Temple tie it up for the ninth time with 18.2 seconds left on a fast-break layup by Cummings.
With the clock winding down, Sykes' 3 to win fell well short of the rim setting up the second overtime.
Cummings drove for a basket putting Temple up 84-82, then Newell hit a 3-pointer that put UCF ahead for the 17th and final lead change with 3:31 left. DeCosey hit a 3 with 5.1 seconds left pulling the Owls within 91-90. Newell hit two free throws when Cummings fouled out, then Pepper missed both free throws on Temple's last chance.
UCF, the American's top rebounding team, had a 50-39 edge on the boards that the Knights used to outscore Temple 27-8 on second-chance points. UCF also had an edge at the free throw line, hitting 19 of 32 (59.4 percent) compared to 13 of 26 (50 percent) for Temple.
These teams had never met before this season when brought together by the American. UCF has only been Division I since 1984-85, while Temple has 13 conference tournament titles and 31 NCAA tournament berths on its studded resume. The Owls also are one of only eight programs to play in the NCAA tournament each of the past six seasons.
This game was as tight as the first two. The Knights jumped out to a 20-13 lead with 12:54 left on a 3-pointer by Newell, but Temple led 40-39 at the half though Sykes beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to keep UCF close.
The Knights built their lead back up to six a couple times in the second half before Temple whittled that down setting up a back and forth finish in regulation. The Owls were up 75-70 with 2:30 left but couldn't hold on.