Men's Hoops Erases 13-Point Deficit, Tops SMU 76-70

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FORT WORTH, Texas – The UCF men's basketball team erased a 13-point first-half deficit to complete the comeback and advance to the American Athletic Conference Quarterfinals with a 76-70 win over SMU in the first round on Thursday.

"It was a great game. I'm sure everyone realized it was a hard-earned win for us," said head coach Johnny Dawkins. "SMU started off great, got a lot of momentum leading at the half, and I give our guys a lot of credit, they showed a lot of character and kept battling. Finally took a lead and were really able to close the game out well. I give coach Lanier a lot of credit for how his team played.  I thought they played with great energy, great effort, and they were very tough about 40 minutes of the game."

The Mustangs opened a game with a bucket, which was answered right away by the Knights with a two-pointer of their own. From there, the Mustangs went on a 7-0 run to go up 9-2. The Black and Gold were able to wing it back to 9-7. Another quick SMU spurt found them up 14-9 at the first media time out with 13:24 on the clock.

Michael Durr rose high for a dunk to bring UCF back within three. Shortly after though, SMU went on another 7-0 run over a 1:18 span to put the Mustangs in front 21-11. At that time, SMU was shooting 64% while the Knights were at a 29% clip. The Mustangs added a three-pointer to go up 13 just over halfway through the first half.

The Knights trimmed it back to a seven-point deficit, sinking the next three shots of the ballgame, making it 24-17 with 6:18 to play.

UCF went into halftime trailing 36-28. The Knights came into the contest with a 3-12 record trialing at halftime. After SMU's hot start, UCF's defense locked down its opposition, bringing their first half field goal percentage back to 40%. The Black and Gold finished the first half shooting 34.3% after being in the mid-20's early on.

UCF and SMU went back and forth to begin the second half, with neither team really able to establish a run.

The Knights trimmed the deficit to three with a C.J. Kelly three-pointer with just under 12-minutes to go. Kelly, along with Ithiel Horton, took center stage down the stretch. Together, the pair put UCF on top, sinking 12 straight points to go up 55-51 with 9:52 to go.

SMU continued to keep the pressure on, cutting the lead to one at 69-68. UCF was able to close the deal with some key buckets down the stretch, including a Horton three-pointer form the corner off an assist from Kelly to make it 72-68. A pair of Kelly free throws made it a six-point game. A late Mustang layup was negated by another two Kelly makes from the charity stripe, securing the Knights' 76-70 victory.

Kelly had 18 second-half points, finishing the evening with a team-high 21 points. The performance was reminiscent of his 30-point outing at ECU back on Jan. 4 when he scored 19 in the second half. Kelly went three-for-three from the three-point arc and six-of-six from the free throw line on Thursday night. Horton and Taylor Hendricks added 15 points each, helping in UCF's comeback.

The Knights advance to The American quarterfinals as they'll face second-seeded Memphis at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU from Dickies Arena.

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