Knights take down No.15 Cincinnati in defensive battle

Courtesy UCF Athletics Communications

With just 32.5 seconds remaining in regulation, redshirt sophomore B.J. Taylor stepped to his right and nailed a triple, giving the Knights a five point lead with 29 seconds left. UCF (19-10, 10-7) closed the game on sophomore center Tacko Fall’s two free throws, upsetting no. 15 Cincinnati (25-4, 14-2) 53-49 as UCF students rushed the floor in front of an announced crowd of 5,763.

Guts, fight and grit on defense down the stretch of the game was the driving force in the Knights’ victory. UCF suffocated Cincinnati’s offense, holding them to just 30 percent shooting for the game and 26 percent shooting for the half.

“That’s what our culture is, playing for each other, “Taylor said. Playing defense the way we played we don’t want to let each other down … we fight for each other on the defensive end because that’s where we hang our hat.”

But the force behind the big win Taylor. He was lights out, scoring a game-high 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting—while never leaving the floor, amassing 40 minutes of action.

“I knew we were up by two and it was about a minute left and when those moments come I embrace those moments,” Taylor said.

Fall, redshirt junior forward A.J. Davis, and redshirt senior forward Matt Williams were dominant on defense as a frontline. They grabbed 24 of UCF’s game high 37 rebounds. Fall was stout protecting the paint; the big man blocked four shots and he was a large reason why Cincinnati junior forward Kyle Washington shot 3-for-15 from the field.

“I mean it’s part of my job, “Fall said.  “Like I said these guys believe in me and that’s the things I can do every night—I take pride in not letting people get easy shots.”

The Knights began the game locked in a defensive battle with the Bearcats with both teams failing to knock down a field goal in the first few minutes. But after trailing 10-4 early to Cincinnati, UCF went on a 15-3 run, giving them a six point lead.

Cincinnati answered with a 9-2 run, but after starting the game without a made field goal, redshirt senior guard Matt Williams nailed a triple to give the Knights a two point lead. The lead changed hands seven times with four ties, but it was redshirt sophomore guard B.J. Taylor who tipped the scale in the Knights’ favor.  

UCF’s floor leader scored 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting to lead both teams, including a fall away step back jumper that swished through the net as time expired. Taylor went on a personal 6-2 run to give the Knights a 30-27 halftime advantage.

“I saw B.J. had it going in the first half and so at that point the main thing is I wanted to make sure that B.J. stayed aggressive and picked his spots,” head coach Johnny Dawkins said.

UCF will close the season out on the road Thursday versus their in-state rival USF at the Sun Dome at 7 p.m.

Christopher Davis is a contributor for the Central Florida Focus on the men’s basketball beat. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChristopherDTV and you can email the sports team at EvanA@centralfloridafocus.com.