ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – What a night it was in Orlando. Just five days after earning its first win over a ranked team this season – a 69-64 road victory at No. 6 Houston – the now No. 25 UCF men’s basketball team returned home Thursday and defeated No. 19 Cincinnati 58-55 to earn two wins over ranked teams in the same season for the first time in program history.
“What a game and what an environment,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The atmosphere in here was electric. Our students came out, our community was here, and I don’t think we win the game if they (aren’t here).”
Now seemingly a lock for UCF’s first-ever at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, the Knights improved to 23-6 on the season, the most regular season wins ever for a UCF squad.
And all of this on Senior Knight. The final regular season home game for a group of four players that have meant to a whole lot to the program.
“In my pregame speech, one of the last things I said was ‘seniors, you lead the way,’” Dawkins said. “Guess what? They all responded and gave us something when we needed it.”
Like he has since he showed up on campus – and even before that – Tacko Fall was making headlines heading into the game. The senior center was surprised by a visit from his mother, the first in nearly seven years.
Fall’s mom Mariane Sene had never been to the United States to see her son play basketball. She had been able to watch clips of him on YouTube, but since he left their native country of Senegal, she had not seen him play the sport he’s grown to love in person.
“It was great for her to see me play,” Fall said. “That was her first time seeing me play. I think the last time she saw me play I was a little baby. It was great seeing her (in the stands).”
Fall opened Thursday night’s game with a dunk and finished 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots to help lead UCF to victory.
He and his teammates fed into the energy in CFE Arena. The sixth largest home crowd in program history, all 9,141 on hand got everything they hoped for.
That included another signature performance from senior BJ Taylor. The all-time point guard at UCF led the way with a game-high 22 points on a trio of three-pointers and had six rebounds in the victory.
His final board was the most crucial, as he held onto the rock following Cane Broom’s missed three-pointer that secure the victory for the Knights.
“It was everything and more,” Taylor said. “There’s nothing more you can ask for on senior night. To get the win and for it to be a great game like that, Knight nation gave us energy, gave us that boost. It was great. I couldn’t think of a better way for us to end our careers at home.”
The Knights held the Bearcats to 37.1 percent shooting and outrebounded Cincinnati 40-33 in the game.
UCF, now 13-4 in league play, will conclude the regular season in Philadelphia. The Knights take on Temple Saturday at 4 p.m. with coverage on ESPN2 and FM 96.9 The Game.