No. 7 Houston Prevails Down the Stretch to Top UCF

Box Score (pdf)

ORLANDO—The UCF men's basketball team Saturday night welcomed its highest-ranked opponent to Addition Financial Arena in eight years (since #7 Cincinnati won there in 2014).
The visiting Houston Cougars (18-2 overall, 7-0 AAC) then showed why they are ranked seventh nationally and have won 10 in a row after their 63-49 triumph over the Knights.
But UCF made it interesting.
Just when it looked like the Cougars might be on their way to a routine win after moving to a 40-25 lead two minutes into the second half, the Knights scored nine straight (part of a 14-2 run) to cut Houston's advantage to 42-39 at the 12:22 mark.
UCF remained close—with Houston holding only a 47-43 lead with 7:04 to go—before the Cougars pulled away late. 
The Knights didn't notch a field goal in the final 4:58, missing seven of their final eight shots.
"Houston plays really well together. We played good basketball for 37 minutes and had our chances. They made plays down the stretch," said UCF coach Johnny Dawkins.
"I thought defensively for the most part we did a good job.
"We have to stay upbeat. We have a lot to play for. I believe in my guys, and they have to believe in themselves."
UCF has not beaten a team at home ranked higher than 15th (Cincinnati in 2017) and only twice has defeated top-10 opponents away from home (#4 Connecticut in 2011 and #6 Houston in 2019).
Junior guard Darin Green Jr. led the home team with 14 points. Fifth-year guard Darius Perry had 11 points, six assists and five rebounds. Junior forward C.J. Walker paced the Knights with six rebounds.
Houston senior guard Tyler Edwards, the Cougars' top scorer at 14.4 and AAC player of the Week two weeks in a row, led all scorers with 17 to go with seven rebounds. Graduate center Josh Carlton had 13 points and 15 rebounds. Senior forward Fabian White Jr. added 11 points.
"They are really good on the defensive end," said UCF frontcourt veteran Cheikh Mbacke Diong who contributed eight points and four rebounds.
"We had some great looks late and they just did not go in. It just was not our night. This was a ranked team, and we just need to play locked in for 40 minutes."
Houston came in ranked second nationally in field-goal percentage defense (.364) and third in scoring defense (56.6) and improved both those averages.
Houston now has four victories in a row in the series—the last UCF home win over the Cougars came in January 2017.
Houston's only losses this season are by two points to Wisconsin Nov. 23 at the Maui Invitational and by one at Alabama Dec. 11.
Green knocked down a trio of three-pointers in the first three minutes of the game to help stake UCF to an early 11-2 advantage. Houston rebounded with 10 straight points to take its first lead with 11:40 left.
A pair of Perry hoops pushed the Knights ahead 19-15—then the Cougars ran off 13 more straight points and led 34-23 at half behind Edwards' 13 points. Houston finished the first half on a 19-4 run over the final 7:29.
UCF (12-7 overall, 4-5 AAC) remains at home to face rival South Florida Thursday (7 p.m. EST on ESPN+). The Knights are now 8-3 at home.
Houston plays host to Tulane Wednesday night looking for its 37th straight home victory.