It’s no secret that the 2019-20 season was not everything that UCF Men’s Basketball had hoped for. The Knights may have been coming off their best year in school history, but just couldn’t overcome the ensuing massive roster turnover and slew of new faces to stay relevant in the AAC.
It would have been easy for the team to overlook its regular season finale against ECU on Sunday. Instead, the Knights came out laser-focused and handled the Pirates 94-62, earning their fourth straight winning season. That may seem like a modest accomplishment, especially after last year, but it’s something that UCF did not manage to do in its first three years in the AAC before Johnny Dawkins took over as head coach.
“We beat a team that I know was playing some really good basketball over the last several weeks and I thought our guys just really set a tone early about how we were going to play the game,” Dawkins said. “Never wavered for 40 minutes and played UCF basketball.”
The performance also gave the Knights their second straight victory, building up some momentum heading into the AAC Tournament where they will face rival USF.
From the start of the game, UCF’s offense seemed to be firing on all cylinders. The Pirates had no answers for the scorching Knights, who buried shot after shot to build and hold onto a sizeable lead before long.
UCF made 17 of its 29 shot attempts in the first half, including seven of its sixteen shots from beyond the arc. It may have been senior night, but it was freshman guard Darin Green who set the tone for the Knights in the first half, putting up 15 points on 67 percent shooting. He also broke the freshman record for threes in a season.
“It feels good to break the record, but we have more to go,” he said. “We’ve got the tournament next week so we’ve just got to keep bringing it.”
UCF went into halftime with a dominant 47-29 lead over ECU.
Despite the big lead, the Knights didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the second half and continued to score with ease on drive after drive. Green continued his big night, going on to finish with 23 points, and the team shot a combined 54 percent from the field. The Pirates couldn’t get back into the game at any point in the second half and the Knights ended up with a big win.
UCF will now head to Fort Worth for the AAC Tournament, where it will look to build off of its win streak and make some noise in its game against USF on Thursday.
“We talked about wanting to have momentum going into the tournament, we talked about that as a team, and I thought our guys have provided that for us,” Dawkins said. “I thought everybody kind of pitched in and it was really a good team win.”