ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team outscored visiting Grambling State 40-22 in the second half and pulled away from the Tigers in the second half to win 70-45 and improve to 7-2 on the season.
UCF (7-2), coming off of a tough road overtime loss at Missouri, got back to its winning ways thanks to another impressive defensive performance. Grambling State (4-5) came into Saturday averaging 78.4 points per game, but could only muster 45 against the suffocating Knights defense.
"It makes me happy when we guard like we did today,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought our guys were really locked in for both halves. That’s something that we have been preaching. I thought we got a great effort from our guys today."
The effort was certainly there on the perimeter. Through their first eight games, Grambling State was shooting 43.2 percent from beyond the arc. On Saturday, the Tigers managed to connect on just three of 16 attempts from three-point range, or 18.8 percent.
“I challenged our guys to play good defense on the perimeter,” Dawkins said. “They were shooting 42-percent from (three) for the season. For us to have success, we had to slow them down on the perimeter. Our guys did a good job in making it more difficult on them tonight.”
It wasn’t much easier on the inside, as UCF big man Tacko Fall finished the game with five blocked shots. Fall, who had six last weekend at Missouri, came into Saturday’s contest leading The American with 3.1 blocked shots per game. He’s now just three away from becoming the program’s all-time leader in blocks.
Offensively, senior BJ Taylor led the way with 21 points on a trio of three-pointers. The point guard was also 8-of-9 from the free throw line.
Taylor helped extend UCF’s 30-23 halftime lead as he and Aubrey Dawkins each scored five points in the Knights’ 10-0 run that made it 42-27 in favor of the Knights just over seven minutes into the second frame.
UCF continued to increase its lead, taking a 55-36 advantage when Frank Bertz knocked down one of his two three-pointers on the day. The junior college transfer, who made a number of energy plays off the bench, ignited the crowd with a tip dunk under the five-minute mark that put UCF up by 20.
“He plays hard,” Taylor said of Bertz. “However many minutes he’s going to have off the bench, he’s going to come in and play hard. He’s going to bring energy. He’s going to compete. When he comes in the game, he’s not going to back down. He’s not going to get caught up in his own individual stats. He’s worried about coming in and bringing energy, and doing whatever he can to help us win."
Bertz finished with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. The junior guard also added five rebounds, three of which were on the offensive end, and had one steal.
“He’s making a good adjustment,” Dawkins said. “We’re still learning about Frank. We’re still getting our rotations down. Frank, because he came late, was a little bit behind some of the other players. We’re still feeling him out a little bit and what he provides for us. He’s been great. He gave us great energy tonight. He gave us great enthusiasm. He gave us a spark off the bench, and that’s something that we’re excited about.”
Knights fans can also be excited about the improved three-point and free throw shooting on Saturday. UCF shot 47.1 percent from beyond the arc and was 71.0 percent from the charity stripe. If you take out Fall’s 1-for-6 from the line, the Knights were 21-of-25 on the day.
UCF also got back to rebounding the way it knows it can. The Knights outrebounded Grambling 47-33 and had a 13-12 advantage on the offensive glass.
Tuesday night, they’ll aim for much of the same success against a tough Georgia Southern team. The Eagles come to Orlando for a 7 p.m. tip on ESPN2 at CFE Arena.
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.