ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team defeated South Florida for the seventh time in a row on Wednesday night, winning 78-65 to improve to 18-5 on the season and 8-3 in American Athletic Conference play.
“We beat a good team tonight. South Florida’s been playing really well,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game. “They had won five games in a row in conference. That’s really hard to do. Our conference is so deep and talented. I’m just really happy that our guys came out with a sense of urgency. They came out focused right from the start.”
Right from the start is correct. After successfully winning his 23rd straight tipoff of the season, Tacko Fall scored the first bucket of the game, as the Knights sprinted out to a 13-0 lead in just under four minutes of game action.
UCF extended its lead to 18 points, at 22-4 on a three-pointer by Dayon Griffin, and led by as many as 19 in the first half before the Bulls made a run. A three-point play by South Florida’s Justin Brown cut it to just 10 points with under a minute left to play.
Terrell Allen gave the Knights the boost they needed heading into the break though, knocking down a three as the buzzer sounded to make it 39-25 at the half.
Allen, who hadn’t scored in double figures since the conference opener on Jan. 2, was solid all night, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 2-of-3 from three-point range, four assists and no turnovers.
“I thought he was terrific,” Dawkins said of Allen. “He let the game come to him. He’s adjusting to (conference play). He made a lot of good plays. He was really solid with the basketball and he led us.”
Allen’s second bucket of the second half sparked another run for the Knights, one that basically put the game out of reach. A 14-2 spurt, capped by a conventional three-point play by Collin Smith, put UCF up 60-34 with 12:32 to play in the game and the Knights cruised to the 78-65 victory.
Fall finished with a game and season-high 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. He added nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Aggressive all night, he got to the line a school record 21 times. And for coming in shooting just 30 percent from the line, he connected on a respectable 9-of-21 (43%).
“I thought this was one of his best games,” Dawkins said of Fall. “It was probably the most assertive 26 minutes he’s played since I’ve coached him here. I felt his presence throughout the entire time he was out there, and that’s a tribute to him. He’s been working really hard.”
A team victory all the way around, four Knights scored in double figures and Smith finished with nine. Allen had 14, BJ Taylor added 13 to go with seven assists and just one turnover, and Aubrey Dawkins chipped in with 10 points.
The Bulls (17-7, 7-5), who came in ranked third in The American in field goal percentage defense at 40.7 percent, couldn’t figure out how to stop the Knights on Wednesday. UCF finished 54.5 percent from the floor, the Knights’ eighth time shooting over 50 percent this season.
The Knights also won the battle of the boards, 37-34, to improve to 16-0 when either matching or topping their opponents rebound total. South Florida came into Wednesday’s game second in the league with a +6.9 rebound margin.
Now winners of back-to-back games, UCF gets set for Saturday’s rematch against Memphis. The Knights fell on the road to the Tigers back on Jan. 27, 77-57, their largest margin of defeat on the year.
UCF and Memphis are scheduled to tipoff at 6 p.m. from CFE Arena with coverage on ESPN2 and FM 96.9 The Game.
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.