ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team bounced back in a big way Thursday night, defeating visiting UConn 73-67 to sweep the Huskies in the season series and improve to 16-4 overall and 6-2 in American Athletic Conference action.
“I knew it was going to be a great game. They have terrific guard play, a great coach, and they played that way," UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said of UConn after the game. "I thought we came out focused, I thought our guys were locked in defensively in the first half, and we were able to build a lead because of that.”
The Knights are now by themselves in third place in the league, as senior guard BJ Taylor led them to their 11th home win over the season with 21 points on 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and 9-of-10 from the free throw line. It was his first-20 points game since going for 24 in the conference opener against Temple.
A number of the usual suspects from the starting lineup made their presence known – Collin Smith with 11 and Tacko Fall and Aubrey Dawkins with nine apiece – but it was the UCF bench that made a difference Thursday night.
The Knights substitutes outscored UConn’s 23-4 in the game, led by Ceasar DeJesus’s season-high 11 points.
DeJesus, who started all 32 games as a redshirt freshman a year ago, has taken on a reserve role in 2018-19. With a knack for getting to the rim, DeJesus did so with ease on Thursday, finishing a perfect 4-of-4 from the field and going 3-of-4 from the charity stripe.
“I thought Ceasar was terrific tonight," Dawkins said. "It was great to see Ceasar be Ceasar. I thought he was back to being the player that he was last year, being aggressive, attacked the basket, making the right play and finishing or dropping it off to our bigs for finishes.”
UConn’s Jalen Adams led the Huskies with 27 points in the defeat, while Josh Carlton grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. The Huskies fell to 12-9 overall and 3-5 in The American.
It marked UCF’s third straight win over the Huskies, but just their fourth all-time over UConn. The Knights are now 11-1 at CFE Arena and have won 10 of their last 12 games overall.
At 16-4, it matches the program’s best 20-game start to a season in its Division I era, and at 6-2 in The American, it’s UCF’s best start to league play as members of the AAC.
UCF will now be off until Thursday, Feb. 7 when the Knights host No. 13 Houston at CFE Arena. Tipoff between the Knights and the league-leading Cougars is set for 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
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.
Much 💛 Knight Nation!
Need you again next Thursday!! pic.twitter.com/XdsKzKTc41
— UCF Men's Basketball (@UCF_MBB) February 1, 2019