The UCF Men’s Basketball team got down early and didn’t have enough fire power to recover, as the Knights saw their NCAA Tournament dreams end in an 84-56 loss to Houston in the AAC Tournament quarterfinals.
“Houston’s a very good basketball team and I thought they got off to a fast start,” coach Johnny Dawkins said. “And that’s difficult, you know, on the first day. But they have so many guys that are capable of making shots, and they did.”
After jumping out to an early 9-6 lead, the Knights (19-13) went cold on offense once again, and scored only seven points over the next eight minutes.
Despite only getting nine points from their two top scorers of redshirt junior B.J. Taylor and redshirt senior A.J. Davis, and allowing Houston to shoot 59 percent in the first half, the Knights went into halftime down by just 13.
UCF came out in the second half and got the deficit down to single digits several times, but Houston had an answer for every Knights run and never let the lead get lower than eight.
“Every time we made a run, they were real mature, and they responded,” Taylor said. “We had some defensive lapses that we wish we could of had back, but you got to give them credit for making the plays that they made, and I mean, that’s why they’re a top-25 basketball team.”
There were several Knights in foul trouble the whole second half, including Davis, who sat out much of the second half with four fouls. This put extra pressure on Taylor to create offense for UCF. He responded by scoring 15 of the Knights’ 29 second half points.
“I just wanted to lay it all on the line for my team,” Taylor said, who scored 20 points in the game. “The second half, it was the last 20 minutes to try to make the NCAA Tournament, so that’s the only thing going through my mind.”
In the end, it was not enough. The Cougars ended the game on 28-9 run, after the Knights had cut the deficit to nine once again, with 8:25 left in the game.
“I thought we got a little bit tired in the second half, trying to keep playing catchup,” Dawkins said.
UCF finished the game shooting 33 percent. They also allowed Houston to shoot a very impressive 58 percent, which resulted in the most points given up by UCF this season.
This Knights still have a chance to make the NIT, but after this performance, it is not guaranteed.
“If it was up to me, I think we would be in, but that’s not my decision,” Dawkins said.
If the team doesn’t make the NIT, this will have been the last game for Davis, who is graduating after this season.
“I would love to just be able to keep on playing for coach for as long as possible, and play with my brothers, as many games as I could,” Davis said. “I think just to be able to compete, you know, still be able to play the game of basketball with this team, and this university would be an honor.”