Written By Ernie Casanova
ORLANDO, FL— It was a surprising start to an already underestimated matchup. After 40 minutes of tough basketball and constant battling, the UCF Knights held off the surging Southern Jaguars by a score of 76-60
The Knights won the tip-off, but Southern started the game with a groove draining in the first two shots. Knights forward Terrell Allen scored the first points for the team with a mid range jumper, and on the ensuing possession, Jaguars’ guard Eddie Reese hit a three pointer to give Southern a 7-2 lead. Ceasar Dejesus hit a another two pointer shortly after and the Knights got a momentous three point shot from Djordjije Mumin to tie the score 7-7. Another three pointer from Southern followed by a couple more layups from Dejesus and Allen made this a surprising back and forth quarter. Nine minutes into the game, the Knights had finally grabbed the lead on the scoreboard but battled to keep it, as the Jaguars kept fighting back.
Throughout the first half, Southern came in hot and ready to play. The Jaguars made the right moves spacing the floor on their offensive possessions. They found their open man beyond the arc and used three pointers to keep them within reach. Shooting 44% from distance, Southern either held the lead or face a deficit no larger than three points. For the Jaguars, guard Eddie Reese led the way in the first half with 11 points on 3-6 shooting, draining two three pointers. He failed to score after that and finished with just those 11 points, while Jaguars’ forward Jared Sam led the way for the entire game with 13 points and nine rebounds. Guard Emanuel Sheperd also had 10 points of his own .
The Knights were distributing the ball across the floor, with 8 players scoring a point to start the game. They were having much trouble executing off of Southern’s missed opportunities, which in turn hindered their chances of building the large lead they should’ve had. Mumin led the way for his squad with nine points on 3-5 shooting, with all shots from behind the arc in the first half.
To begin the second half, Knight's first two buckets were made by A.J. Davis, as he scored eight points in the first seven minutes of the half. He and Dejesus both hit three points shot shortly, there after they came out of the locker room with a 10-2 run. Up 56-47 with 10 minutes to go, Chance McSpadden hit a long range three point shot to give them a 59-47 lead, as the Knights began to pull away. After the Jaguars started having trouble sinking in their shots, the Knights found a way to convert on all of their opportunities. The Knights were letting this become a close game by the end of the first 20 minutes, but a second half surge for the team in which they outscored the Jaguars 42-28 over the final 20 minutes assisted them greatly in improving to 6-3
"They're a tough team," UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said of Southern. "They are a great shooting team and they have a great inside player in (Jared) Sam. It took a heck of a defensive effort, but I'm really proud of our guys, especially in the second half. I thought we were as efficient as we've been all year and we are able to come away with the win.”
Tacko Fall had one of his best games as a Knight, with 18 points and nine rebounds on 7-9 shooting. Davis and Mumin both sat behind the seven footer with 12 points each of their own. Davis played more of the facilitator and play maker, also notching eight rebounds and seven assists.
“I thought Tacko was really efficient tonight," Dawkins said. "I thought we found him and that's something that we want to do. We want to give him the basketball when he has the opportunity to be able to receive it and make plays. His aggressiveness was there, and he's hungry on the offensive end.”
UCF will next take on the Southeastern Louisiana Lions on Tuesday at 7:00PM ET.
The Southern Jaguars get ready to travel to Iowa and take on the Hawkeyes tomorrow at 5:00PM ET.
Written by Ernie Casanova
ORLANDO, FL-- UCF came in with hopes of moving on from their tough losses against St John’s and West Virginia in last week’s AdvoCare Invitational tournament. Missouri, coming off of a devastating loss of their own in the tournament’s championship game against the Mountaineers, also came in with the mindset of putting it past them. The Tigers began things a little choppy, but everything came together in time to hand the Knights their third straight loss by a score of 62-59.
The Knights started off strong, taking an early 4-0 lead on two quick baskets. Missouri responded without hesitation and kept tying the score until it was 9-9. Knights’ forward Ceasar Dejesus along with center Tacko Fall created some separation on the board with two easy layups to set the pace. The Knights went on an 8-0 run as Missouri went cold after starting off shooting 4-7 from the floor. Soon it became 17-9, and the Tigers just weren’t able to drain any of their shots. They finally scored with 7:57 left in the 1st half to make it 17-11 after going 0-7 from the floor since the 15:02 mark.
With three minutes left in the first, Missouri found its rhythm, sinking in two straight three-pointers to make a 21-18 deficit into a 24-21 lead. After a few free throws and a layup off of a fast break, Missouri extended their lead and took it into the locker room with them at halftime. They led the Knights 29-24 after the first quarter of play. Knights forward A.J Davis and Tacko Fall led the way for the team in the 1st half. Davis had six points with five rebounds, while Fall contributed six points and two rebounds, making all three of his shots. As for Missouri, guard Kassius Robertson led the team in scoring in the first 20 minutes, notching 11 points on 4-6 shooting and 3-5 from beyond the arc. Forward Jordan Barnett sat behind Robertson, having seven points and two assists.
In the second half, Missouri scored on their first two possessions, carrying over their hot streak from the previous quarter. Robertson took little time continue his fast pace of play and scored the first bucket for the team. UCF was having trouble recreating some of the movement from the first half, and they started to fall behind. With the Tigers owning a 48-41 lead and 7:42 left to go, Barnett dropped a floater in for two points after an A.J. Davis three-point play, and it was a reminder to the fans of what was to keep coming. No matter what UCF answered back with, the Tigers had found their game and were executing every step of the way.
In the last five minutes, the Knights were valiantly fighting for the win, hitting their shots and capitalizing off of the Tigers’ miscues. After a Dejesus three-pointer went in, the ensuing possession consisted of another three-point play from Davis, and it electrified the CFE Arena. Within the final two minutes, both teams traded shots, with UCF hitting a crucial three-pointer to bring the score to 59-57. As the Knights sent the Tigers to the free throw line shortly after, Barnett hit two consecutive free throws to put the game out of reach.
It was back and forth for much of the quarter, but Missouri maintained a comfortable lead throughout the rest of the game and pulled out the much-needed win. All around, it was an above-average performance for the Tigers, and they showed no signs of slowing down, unlike the way they gave up a late lead to the Mountaineers last week.
Leading the way for the Tigers was Robertson, who had the hot hand most of the night. He finished with 19 points and two assists on 7-10 shooting. Barnett also had 19 points and six rebounds, while forward Jeremiah Tilmon also contributed 12 points and seven rebounds. As for the Knights, A.J Davis led them in scoring with 14 points to go with nine assists, while Tacko Fall added 12 points and six rebounds.
After their first win in the AdvoCare Invitational against Nebraska, the Knights have slowly been falling off course since their 4-0 start. UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins speaks on the three-game skid and positively says that it might be beneficial to his players, considering who their opponents have been. He states:
“We faced a ranked team already. We’ll face another one now (Alabama). We’ve faced some good basketball teams like I said this whole season. Look at all of our games we played. That’s gonna help us, and Alabama is no different. We’ll watch the tapes, and learn from there. They’re a very good basketball team. You know, with really good guard play. They are playing well this year.”
UCF (4-3) plays #24 Alabama next on Sunday, while Missouri (6-2) will next take on the University of Miami-Ohio this upcoming Tuesday.
UCF Athletic Communications
ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team shot 61.5 percent in the second half and held William & Mary to 35.2 percent shooting for the game, improving to 3-0 on the season with a 75-64 victory at CFE Arena Saturday afternoon.
The Knights trailed by one point at the break, and continued to fight off the Tribe throughout the start of the second half, holding onto a 47-46 lead with 11:34 to play. That’s when two free throws by senior A.J. Davis ignited an 8-1 run to put UCF ahead for good.
As always, the Black and Gold got it done on defense, making six straight stops during the stretch. Following a William & Mary three-pointer, Chance McSpadden and Tacko Fall scored nine straight UCF points to extend the lead to double digits for the first time and the Knights cruised to the 75-64 win.
“This was a good test for us. They're a really good team from the standpoint of how they execute,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “They run one of those systems that are difficult to guard. I thought our guys, being as this is the first time they've seen a team play that way, defended it well and I think we won this game because we defended well.”
The Knights also played well on offense though, shooting 16-of-26 from the field in the second half and 5-of-9 from three-point range after shooting just 33.3 percent from the floor and 0-of-8 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes.
UCF is now out to a 3-0 start for the second straight year under Dawkins. Last season the Knights defeated Nicholls, Mississippi State and Charleston before falling to No. 3 Villanova in the championship of the Charleston Classic.
The Knights aim to open up the 2017-18 campaign 4-0 when they take on Nebraska on Thanksgiving in the first game of the AdvoCare Invitational at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. It would mark the program’s first 4-0 start since the 2010-11 season.
Written by Adrian Beecher
Orlando, FL - Double-double’s from AJ Davis and Chad Brown helped lead the Knights to a 68-65 squeaker win over Gardner-Webb Wednesday night. UCF was without starters BJ Taylor and Tacko Fall, which showed throughout the game as the Knights were unable to pull away from the Bulldogs for most of the night.
UCF scored the first two baskets of the game before Gardner-Webb was able to get on the board. The Bulldogs Davis Efianayi scored their first 6 points of the game, making it a tie game at 6 as they entered the first media timeout.
Gardner-Webb took their first lead of the night on a layup from Brandon Miller with 14:41 left in the first half. After the Bulldogs got out to a 10-6 lead, the Knight’s struck back with and 8-0 run to regain the lead at 14-10 as a dunk from Chad Brown capped the run.
Much of the rest of the half was a back and forth affair between both side and with 6:07 left to play in the half the game was all knotted up at 19. At the half, UCF had a three point advantage over the Bulldogs after a triple from Chance McSpadden made it 31-28.
Ceasar DeJesus led the scoring for the Knights with 8 points, while on the other side of the ball it was DJ Laster leading the way for the three-point with 10 points. UCF struggled from the field, shooting just 33.3% from the field, however luckily for them, that was the same percentage as Gardner-Webb.
The Bulldogs drew first blood to open the second half with a layup from DJ Laster. UCF would answer with a layup from Terrell Allen, which made it 33-30 with just under a minute and a half expired in the 2nd. Continuing with the first half trend, the 2nd was also a back and forth affair early on in the 2nd half. Gardner-Webb would take their first lead of the game with 14:34 left in regulation as Efianayi hit a triple to make it 39-37.
UCF would tie the game up at 45 after a layup and an and one from Dayon Griffin with 11:36 left to play. This was the start of a 7-0 run which made it 49-45 Knights, as the Bulldogs took a timeout with 10:21 to try to slow down UCF’s momentum. It worked momentarily, as Jamaal Robateau hot a triple to end the run making it 50-48, with UCF still on top.
The air slowly started to leave the Bulldogs hopes of an upset over the Knights after UCF went on a 10-0 run. This gave the Knights a 12-point point lead as they looked to take full control of the game with just 6:32 left to play.
Back to back buckets for the Bulldogs coming from DJ Laster and Efianayi would cut the deficit to just 8 points with 5:38 left to play. However, the Knights quickly were able to push their lead back to double digits, with six 3:42 left to play it was 63-52.
Much to the dismay of the home fans at CFE Arena, the Bulldogs were not going quietly. Consecutive triples for Gardner-Webb coming from Laster and Efianayi cut the Knights lead to just 5 points with 1:53 left to play. After a single Knights free throw pushed it back to 6, a layup from Liam O’Reilly cut it to 4 points.
The fight in the Bulldogs would not dwindle as they took advantage of a few late missed free throws, and UCF continued to turn the ball over late. In the final four minutes, UCF was 6 of 9 from the line and turned the ball over four times. This allowed Gardner-Webb to cut the lead to just 1 point with only 34 seconds left in the game as Liam O'Reilly hit a triple.
UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins attested the comeback to the Bulldogs effort and not a letup from the Knights, " I give Gardner-Webb credit; they hit some tough shots, some tough threes and that three-ball really does change the game." Dawkins then continued with full explanation. "All the sudden, your up 12 or your up 10, a team hits 2 or 3 threes, all of the sudden its a 2 point game or three-point game, all of the sudden it's a one possession that fast on you. You know, I give Gardner-Webb credit more so than us letting up. They made tough shots and thats what good teams and good players do."
The Bulldogs would then have a chance to take the lead with UCF turning the ball over after the lead was cut to one. O’Reilly was unable to know down a poor percentage triple. Then UCF’s Chance McSpadden would hit two free throws from the line to extend the Knights lead to three with just 10 seconds left. Gardner-Webb was unable to get in a desperation triple as UCF escaped with the win.
The Knights will now turn their focus to a Saturday matchup against William & Mary in Orlando before they head to Disney to play in the Advocare Invitational on Thanksgiving and through Thanksgiving weekend.
Written by Austin Fackler
Orlando, FL - In UCF’s home opener against the Mercer Bears, the Knights were looking to build on what was their best season in over a decade, in the Knights first year under head coach Johnny Dawkins the team went 24-12 and for the first time in five years earned a postseason berth participating in the 2017 National Invitation Tournament.
Their first game of the 2017-2018 campaign would not be easy as Mercer came out strong playing tough defense to go hand in hand with solid offense. In the end the Knight would be too much for Mercer, as UCF picked up the 88-79 win despite losing star BJ Taylor late in the 2nd half. Here is how it all went down.
For Mercer, it was Senior Guard Ria’n Holland that got the Bears off to a hot start, leading the team to a 24-22 advantage half way through the first quarter. That was when the Knights turned up the intensity, going on a 15-11 run to claim the lead with 4:30 to go in the first half.
With just under a minute remaining in the first half Mercer’s Jordan Strawberry hit a big three that gave the Bears the lead 47-44, after B.J. Taylor converted a pair of free throws that cut Mercers lead to 47-46 at halftime. Taylor lead the Knights in scoring in the first half with 10 points and 4 assists, however, the story of the first half was Mercer’s Ria’n Holland, who lead all scorers with 21 points while shooting 50 percent from the field which included five three pointers.
Coming out of halftime, the Knights turned up the defensive intensity protecting the rim racking up 6 blocks and 7 steals. UCF was able to force Mercer to take poor shots, which allowed the Knights to get easy fast break opportunities, a category in which they outscored Mercer 13-0. Those fast break points helped the Knights extend their lead early in the second half to 8. The defense only intensified for UCF as the game went on, forcing five turnovers in a four-minute span, the Knights open up a 16-point lead mid-way through the second half.
After starting point guard B.J. Taylor went out mid-way through the second half Mercer saw it as an opportunity to make a comeback. They started to cut into the lead getting it down to as low as 6 points in the final minutes, however the Knights lead was too much to overcome as UCF took their home opener by a final score of 88-79.
After the Knights head coach Johnny Dawkins was asked how he felt his team played he responded by saying, “It was a great first game, “We knew Mercer was very good. They've been battle tested. So we knew it was a game that we would have to win that they weren't going to give us the game.”
UCF will now look ahead to their matchup with Gardner-Webb next Tuesday in Orlando, FL. Gardner-Webb lost their first game of the season in a rout to No. 13 Miami on Friday night.
UCF's Men's Basketball