Defense Dominates as Knights Top Fullerton

CONWAY, S.C. ( –The UCF men’s basketball team and its normally stingy defense bounced back to form on Thursday, as the Knights defeated Cal State Fullerton by a score of 68-52 in the first round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.


“We beat a very good basketball team,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game. “The were a tournament team last year, and watching a lot of film on them, and how well those players have developed, it’s fun to see. That’s a good basketball team, so I’m really proud of our guys.”


The Titans (1-2) came into the tournament averaging 100 points per game, which included a double-overtime loss at Arizona State. On Thursday, however, the Titans were barely able to score half of that total against the Knights, as UCF (2-1) held Cal State Fullerton to just 35 percent shooting from the floor.


The Knights, who have been one of the best defenses in the nation the last two years under head coach Johnny Dawkins, held the Titans to just 4-of-17 from beyond the arc and outrebounded them 45-33 in the game.


“We were very active,” Dawkins said. “Guys were following the game plan defensively. It took a team effort to slow them down. Our guys bought into that and were really focused for the entire game.”


The Knights scored the first seven points and took an 11-3 lead before going scoreless for over seven minutes of game time, allowing Fullerton to take a 13-11 lead with 7:43 to play in the half. A jumper by Terrell Allen finally got UCF on the board again and the two teams traded blows until late in the first frame.


A 15-4 run, ignited by an Allen three-pointer, and capped by seven straight points from B.J. Taylor gave the Knights a 32-22 lead at the break. UCF connected on four of its last five field goals of the half to gain the advantage.


The start of the second half was much of the same, as a 17-4 Knights run ballooned UCF’s lead to 61-35 with just 8:17 to play in the game. Collin Smith scored the final five points of the run, and was one of four Knights to score in double digits in the game, totaling 12.


UCF withstood a min-run late by Cal State Fullerton and cruised to the 16-point victory in Myrtle Beach.


Taylor led the way with 14 points, Aubrey Dawkins added 13, while Tacko Fall and Smith each had 12. Fall recorded his first double-double of the season, finishing with 10 rebounds and adding three blocks in the victory.


“That means that any given night that one of those players can have a really good night for you,” Dawkins said of the offensive balance. “It’s exciting for us. We have a number of guys capable of scoring. That versatility on offense is a positive for us.”


With the win, the Knights advance to the semifinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational and will take on Saint Joseph’s Friday at 1:30 p.m. There will be coverage on ESPN2 and FM 96.9 The Game.



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