After early offensive struggles, UCF was able to establish an offensive rhythm late in the second half, leading to a 80-56 opening victory at home versus Nicholls.
Just five minutes into the second half, the Knights found themselves tied up with the Colonels at 43. Following the pause in the action, the Knights went on a 23-11 run which gave them a 12 point lead, their first double digit cushion of the evening.
“We came out, boom we turn it over [and] they hit the three,” head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We get to the timeout I just wanted to talk to the guys about being sharper, executing, understanding where we are.”
One player who displayed the awareness that Dawkins alluded to was the teams captain, redshirt senior guard Matt Williams. He had a game-high 20 points, four rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes of play. Williams went 6-for-11 from beyond the arch, making timely buckets which eventually helped break the game open.
“Me stepping up comes from the confidence of the coaching staff,” Williams said. “It’s my senior year I got to start being more vocal, start taking ownership of the team, start talking more to guys and I’ve been trying to embrace that.”
Williams wasn’t the only player in the black and gold to pick up their play in the second half. Redshirt sophomore guard B.J. Taylor and sophomore center Tacko Fall scored 23 of their 30 combined points in the second half.
Fall was assertive, amassing a stat line that reflected his interior presence with 16 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
“I felt very comfortable from last year I think I made a big jump,” Fall said. “Holding a good position, playing angles, being patient on the post—when you have guys like Matt who can shoot, people really can’t help off that.”
UCF began the game sloppy, frantic and a tad bit disorganized; missing assignments and throwing errant passes which resulted in 10 early turnovers.
Fortunately for the Knights, the Colonels weren’t able to turn those miscues into many baskets as they only scored four points off turnovers, while shooting 30 percent from the field.
Williams and Efianayi kept the Knights afloat in the first half. The guard tandem scored 17 of the teams 33 points in the half, searching for their shot when the right opportunities were presented.
“Those are our leaders,” Dawkins said. “Matt’s one of the best shooters in the country … and Tank is just versatile he had nine rebounds tonight … both of those guys gave us a lift.”
Senior guard Tanksley Efianayi: 16 points, nine rebounds, and two steals
Redshirt senior forward Nick Banyard: 10 points, 12 rebounds and three assists
The Knights will look to go 2-0 as they travel to Charleston, South Carolina, for the Gildan Charleston Classic to take on the Mississippi Bulldogs (1-0) on Thursday at TD Arena at 5 p.m.