ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team put forth a completely dominating performance over visiting SMU Sunday afternoon, winning 95-48, behind a 23-point, 20-rebound performance from Tacko Fall.
The Knights (20-6, 10-4) earned their largest margin of victory of the season. The 47-point win, in fact, was the largest for UCF since defeating West Florida 115-61 on Nov. 12, 2010. The victory also gave UCF 20 wins for the second time in the last three seasons.
Hanging their hat on defense since Johnny Dawkins’ arrival in Orlando, Sunday’s effort was one of the program’s best, holding the Mustangs (13-13, 5-9) to just 48 points and just 24.6 percent from the floor. That mark was a season-best for the Knights and the lowest opponent field goal percentage since allowing just 22.1 percent to Stetson on Nov. 30, 2016.
“We came out with a defensive mindset that really set a tone in this game,” Dawkins said. “Our guys came out right from the tip, they followed the game plan, they were locked in defensively, and that first four minutes was amazing. I don’t think we’ve played better in a four-minute span.”
SMU didn’t score until the 14:52 mark of the game, as the Knights sprinted out to a 16-0 advantage with Fall and Collin Smith combining for 12 of the 16 points during the stretch.
“Hats off to our guys for moving onto the next play after losing our last game,” Dawkins said. “They went to the next game with a sense of urgency, with a focus and I think it showed, not just in the first four minutes but throughout the game.”
UCF extended its lead to as many as 26 points in the first half as a 15-0 run made it 36-10 with 5:10 remaining in the frame. Leading 41-18 at the break, and dominating paint points 26-4, Fall was impressive.
The 7-foot-6 center had 15 points and 16 rebounds at the break, one board shy of his career high. The Knights held the Mustangs to just 20.0 percent shooting from the floor and the 18 points matched the Illinois State game for their season-best for points in a half by an opponent.
Unlike the Illinois State game, when the Redbirds were able to keep within 20-30 points all-night, UCF dominated just as much in the second half against the Mustangs, outscoring SMU 54-30 in the final 20 minutes.
It was a total team effort with five Knights in double figures and two others with nine points, but it was Fall that stood out, controlling the paint on both ends of the floor.
His 23 points were a season high, his 20 rebounds were a career high, and he added two blocked shots. He became the first Knight to record a 20-20 games in the program’s Division I era and only the second to grab 20 boards in a game, joining Paul Reed, who did so in 2001.
“I’ve been waiting for that from Tacko,” Dawkins said. “I challenged Tacko going into the season to get some 20-rebound games, because I think he’s capable. He showed today with 15 in the first half. Today will be a nice step forward for him.”
Overshadowed by Fall’s performance was a stunning outing from Chad Brown, who scored 13 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds for his third double-double as a Knight and his first this season.
BJ Taylor added 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc, Aubrey Dawkins had 11 points on 3-of-6 from three-point range, and Terrell Allen chipped in with 11 points and two steals. Allen also added a season-high eight assists and turned the ball over just one time.
Collin Smith and Frank Bertz were also just one point shy of double figures. The former had nine to go with 10 rebounds, his fourth double figure rebounding game of the year. The latter had nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from distance.
Overall, the Knights shot 49.3 percent from the floor and had 17 assists to just six turnovers, tying the team’s season-best for turnovers in a game. UCF outscored SMU 13-1 on the fast break and 46-14 in the paint.
“I can’t think of a game that we’ve been better,” Dawkins said of his team’s performance. “Guys were following the game plan and executing what we needed to execute. Defensively, guys were where they were supposed to be. They were engaged. And we finished it off with the rebound.”
The Knights were dominant on the boards all day, obviously, outrebounding the Mustangs 58-35. It was the most in a game for UCF since grabbing 59 against Nicholls Nov. 14, 2016 and the sixth most ever in a single-game for the Knights.
UCF now returns to action on Wednesday on the road. The Knights play at South Florida in the War On I-4 at 7 p.m. with coverage on ESPN3.
TICKETS FOR 2018-19
Fans can purchase tickets for the final game of the 2018-19 UCF men's basketball season against No. 25 Cincinnati on March 7 by calling (407) 823-1000 or online here: https://ucfknights.co/mbb1819tix.
Just throw it up to the big fella and let him work. pic.twitter.com/BmSMr15txA— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) February 24, 2019