CONWAY, S.C. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team continued its stellar play in South Carolina on Friday, defeating Saint Joseph’s by a score of 77-57 to advance to the Myrtle Beach Invitational Championship Game.
In the title contest, the Knights (3-1) will take on the winner of Friday night’s second semifinal between West Virginia and Western Kentucky. The championship will tipoff Sunday at 6:30 p.m. from the HTC Center with coverage on ESPN2 and FM 96.9 The Game.
“Anytime you have a chance to compete for a championship, that’s a special moment,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the win. “I’m just happy our guys put us in a position where we can compete for one.”
In order to get there, UCF held two straight opponents under 60 points, something the Knights did 13 times a year ago. On Friday it was against a Saint Joseph’s (3-1) team that advanced to the semifinals after defeating Wake Forest, 89-69.
The Hawks could never fully get a handle on the UCF defense, shooting just 38.2 percent from the floor and 36.0 percent from three-point range.
“They have a terrific offensive team as you saw, they can really shoot the basketball,” Dawkins said. “Our guys as the game went on started to really lock in. Give them a lot of credit, they found ways to get their shooters open, found ways to get to the basket, but we had enough stops to gain some momentum.”
The Knights, meanwhile, had the offense humming at times, connecting on 55 percent from the field and going 10-of-21 from three-point range. Coming into Friday’s game, UCF had only made 15-of-57 threes in its first three games of the 2018-19 season.
“I thought our offense really complemented our defense tonight and that’s something that might go unnoticed,” Dawkins said. “Our combination of being very efficient offensively allowed us to be able to come back and set our defense up.”
It was junior point guard Terrell Allen leading the way offensively. The Upper Marlboro, Md., native scored a career-high 22 points and went 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Allen was 8-of-11 from the floor, 2-of-2 from the line, and added a game high six assists with just one turnover.
“(Terrell Allen) has been working all summer and he’s probably made the biggest improvement of any player on our team,” Dawkins said. “It’s great to see him be rewarded by some of the things he’s worked on. You can see it out there on the floor, guys go under screens and he’s a very good three-point shooter, so he’s going to knock those shots down. He did tonight and that was huge for us.”
While Allen got it done on the outside, Tacko Fall was dominant once again on the inside. The 7-foot-6 center went 6-for-8 from the floor, totaling 12 points, and adding game highs of nine rebounds and four blocks.
“Having Tacko back there, the guards are able to pressure the ball as much as we want, knowing he’s back there,” Allen said of Fall. “He’s even playing well for us on offense, he’s been giving us everything he has with rebounding and scoring. We need that from him.”
In all, the Knights outrebounded the Hawks by a margin of 40-25 and outscored Saint Joe’s 38-18 in the paint. UCF also scored 14 points off of 11 offensive rebounds.
Four UCF players finished in double figures, as Aubrey Dawkins scored 13 and added six rebounds, while newcomer Frank Bertz totaled 10 points. Both guards connected on a pair of three-pointers in the victory.
It marks the second time in three years that the Knights will play for an in-season tournament championship. In 2016-17, UCF defeated Mississippi State and Charleston before falling to Villanova in the title game of the Charleston Classic.
“It’s always great to play for a championship,” Allen said. “Coach Dawkins preaches that all the time, you’re going to get a chance to play for three championships all year and this is one of them right here. We’re blessed to be here.”
TICKETS FOR 2018-19
Fans can purchase tickets for the 2018-19 UCF men's basketball season by calling (407) 823-1000 or online here: https://ucfknights.co/mbb1819tix.