The UCF men’s basketball team never trailed as it scrapped and clawed its way to a fourth conference victory, overpowering Houston 77-70 before an announced home crowd of 5,489 Saturday afternoon.
The Knights (13-4, 4-1 American) displayed grit and weathered the storm by withstanding a barrage of runs by the Cougars (13-5, 4-2) throughout the contest. UCF shot 57 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc. All five Knights starters scored in double figures led by redshirt sophomore guard B.J. Taylor with 20 points.
“We just wanted to make it tough on those guys all night and we have some areas to improve in, but I think overall we did a great job,” Taylor said.
The Knights’ defense wasn’t as statistically dominant as it was coming into the game, but UCF forced 11 turnovers and stalled Houston’s offensive momentum when it needed to do so.
“They’re one of the best offensive teams we’ve faced — they have so much fire power,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought overall our defense was good … I think our guys followed the game plan and we were able to hold them down enough to get the win.”
The glue that held the Knights together was redshirt junior forward A.J. Davis, who had one of his best performances of the season. The 6-foot-9 wing poured in 11 of his 15 points in the second half and led the team in rebounds with eight.
“I try to stay aggressive on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “I think we all do a great job of crashing the glass … I think I just do a good job of pursuing the ball.”
Redshirt senior guard Matt Williams was hot from the perimeter, starting the game on his own 8-0 run. UCF led by as many as 11, shooting 52 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep.
The Knights’ stingy defense held the Cougars to just 39 percent shooting and 2-for-11 from 3-point range.
After the scorching start by the Knights, the Cougars put together a 9-2 run thanks to 12 UCF turnovers which led to 13 points for Houston. After UCF stretched the lead for the second time in the half, Houston rallied back to within two — but the Knights led 34-29 at the half.
“Every team has strengths and weaknesses,” Dawkins said. “That’s something we have to get better at and believe me we are working on it—it’s a process.”
UCF’s next game will be at home versus USF on Tuesday Jan. 17 at CFE Arena at 7 p.m.
Fall breaks shot clock with dunk
With 50 seconds to go in the game, Taylor threw a lob to sophomore center Tacko Fall as time expired on the shot clock. Fall’s emphatic jam caused the scoreboard to split in half. After a two-minute delay, play resumed. Fall finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.