After its worst loss of the season, UCF needed a big bounce back win. They got it with a wire-to-wire 73-67 victory against UConn Thursday night at CFE Arena.
“Our whole thing after the Memphis game was to get right,” Senior guard B.J. Taylor said. “We had to come back and get back to being who we were and get back to winning.”
Just one game after surrendering 77 points to the AAC’s top scoring team in Memphis, they held UConn (12-9, 3-5), the second highest scoring team, to just 22 first half points.
“For us, I thought the first half defense was some of the best first half defense that we played all year,” coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought our guys were really locked in defensively in the first half and we were able to build a lead because of that.”
It was slow early on, but after nearly three minutes of scoreless basketball, the Knights (16-4, 6-2 AAC) went on a 17-6 run to open a 15-point lead midway through the first half.
UCF didn’t have the best offensive half, but Taylor gave the team nine first half points, while fellow senior Tacko Fall added seven points and five boards.
They would take a 34-22 lead into the half.
In the second half, things got a little dicey for the Knights however.
The suffocating defense in the first half started to fade and the Huskies, led by guard Jalen Adams’ 27 points, took advantage.
UConn scored 45 points in the second half, with 22 of those coming from Adams. They were able to cut the lead to two with just over two minutes remaining.
“Jalen Adams, he’s one of the best guards in our league of course, and of the best guards in the nation and I think he showed that in the second half, especially,” Coach Dawkins said.
Though the defense didn’t have its best half, it stepped up in the end, doing just enough along with the free throw shooting to preserve the victory.
Overall, they held UConn to 44 percent shooting and 12 points below their season average.
Taylor led the team with 21 points, followed by Caesar DeJesus who had a breakout game with 11 points on 100 percent shooting and helped lead a huge contribution from the bench unit.
“Off the bench tonight it was Ceaz,” Taylor said. “When Ceaz gets going, he do his thing, he going to the cup, he’s one of the toughest players to guard in our entire conference.”
The Knights now get a week to prepare for No. 13 Houston, who will come to town next Thursday.
“We wish we could have them tomorrow, to be honest with you,” Taylor said. “But we got a week, so we just got to lock in their tendencies and get ready to go.