UCF Rolls Over ECU Thanks to Early Spurt

Stats (PDF)

ORLANDO—Proficient field-goal shooting to start the game. Especially strong team defense. A quick 14-0 scoring run. A sixth 20-or-more-point scoring outing for freshman standout Taylor Hendricks.
The UCF men's basketball team parlayed all that and more into a relatively routine 84-58 victory over East Carolina in its regular-season finale Sunday afternoon at Addition Financial Arena.
A Hendricks three-pointer made it 21-7 for the Knights to end that 14-point spree—as he scored 10 of UCF's first 21 points. Meanwhile, the home team's defense forced ECU to miss 11 of its first 14 field-goal attempts.
A 6-0 UCF run pushed the Knight advantage to 38-21 to match its largest lead of the game to that point. Later a 9-0 spurt by the Knights, the last five by C.J. Kelly pushing him over the 1,000-point mark for his career, made it 51-31 for UCF and forced an ECU timeout.
The biggest home team lead was 71-44 with 6:48 remaining.
"Just really happy with our performance on both offense and defense--a good way to finish for our seniors," said coach Johnny Dawkins.
"We've gone through a lot this season—we learned a lot of lessons. Now there's no tomorrow—we need to play with hunger. Our guys know what to do to be successful. We need to build on what we did tonight."
Hendricks led all scorers with 25 points (on nine of 15 shooting) to match his season high (also Feb. 26 at Tulsa) and also headlined all rebounders with 10 for his fifth double-double of the season. Ithiel Horton had 19 points (seven of 11 on field goals, five of eight on threes) for the home team. Kelly contributed a dozen and Darius Johnson 10.
The Knights shot at a .568 clip in the opening half before finishing at .509. UCF had 32 points in the paint and scored 24 points off 16 ECU turnovers.
The game matched UCF's largest margin of victory other than its 44-point win Feb. 11 versus Tulsa (also winning by 26 Dec. 11 versus Tarleton State). 
UCF now has won 16 straight games against the Pirates. ECU has lost in eight straight trips to Orlando—its last win at Addition Financial Arena coming in 2015.
The triumph gave UCF a season sweep of ECU after the Knights won 64-61 in Greenville Jan. 4 in the first of three straight league wins in a row, its best AAC streak in 2023.
If the Pirates had won, it would have been their most league wins (eight) since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2014-15.
Sophomore RJ Felton, ECU's top scorer at 13.9 points per game, scored only nine and left the game late in the first half with an ankle injury (he returned for much of the second half).
ECU sophomore Brandon Johnson, a 12.8-point scorer, had 12—while freshman Ezra Ausar paced the visitors with 14 points. Johnson and Jaden Walker each had six rebounds for the Pirates who shot only .362 for the afternoon.
Before the game the Knights recognized their graduating seniors making their final home appearances: swingman Brandon Suggs, guard Ty Freeman, forward Michael Durr and guard C.J. Kelly, along with student managers Christian Olivier, Bradley Lloyd, Tyler Kriminger and Caleb Jones and graduate assistant Ben Hazel.
The Knights (17-13, 8-10) are the seventh seed and play Thursday night in the first round of the AAC Championship in Fort Worth against tenth-seeded SMU. ECU (15-16, 6-12) has won four of its last eight games. UCF finished 11-6 this season at Addition Financial Arena.

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