UCF Knights junior center Tacko Fall swatting SC State player at the CFE Arena on Thursday night. Photo by Christopher Davis.

UCF men’s basketball closes out non-conference with win over SC State

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The UCF Knights men’s basketball team secured their fifth consecutive victory of the season with a 89-64 win over the South Carolina State Bulldogs on Thursday night.

The Knights’ final non-conference game versus the Bulldogs was played in front of an announced crowd of 3,055 at the CFE Arena on UCF’s main campus.

UCF used its defense as a catalyst all night long, and after exchanging baskets out of the half, they proceeded to go on a 21-4 run.

Knights’ redshirt sophomore guard Chance McSpadden initiated the run, ripping the ball from a Bulldogs’ guard for his third steal.

Then UCF redshirt sophomore guard Terrell Allen got a deflection, and junior Chad Brown joined the defensive joust, taking a charge and forcing another Bulldog turnover.

“Chance [McSpadden] came in and brought us a ton of energy,” UCF redshirt junior guard Dayon Griffin said. “We needed to get going, and Chance came in with a great spark on defense. He was aggressive and that’s what we needed, and it fed to everybody.”

UCF registered seven steals and eight blocks, holding SC State to just 28 percent shooting in the second half and 38 percent for the game.

Five different players scored for the Knights, including a team-high of 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks from junior center Tacko Fall.

Griffin filled up the stat sheet Thursday night. The Louisiana Tech transfer, whose 22nd birthday was Thursday, gifted the team 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and added a pair of blocks.

“I feel like I’m back in my groove,” Griffin said. “I’m starting to get back comfortable with who I am, believing in myself. I think early on I was just putting a lot of pressure on myself [and] now I’m just playing.”

UCF got off to a sluggish start, trailing SC State for 16 minutes in the first half and by as many as nine points with about eight minutes left until intermission.

But Fall’s 12th basket gave the Knights their first lead of the evening. On the very next play he scored again on another post up on the right block, extending the Knights’ lead to four.

McSpadden was the spark plug that lit a fire under the team. The 6-foot-4 guard was chomping at the bit and snarling after stripping opposing SC State players on two separate plays, resulting in scores for UCF.

He also added six points and two rejections during the first half, including a chase down block.

“Really proud of our effort overall,” UCF Head Coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Especially considering we got down in the first half by about nine. Our guys showed the character that I think they’ve exhibited most all season.”

The Knights will begin American Athletic Conference play on the road versus the Southern Methodist University Mustangs at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas, on Dec. 27 at 9 p.m.