The UCF men’s basketball team was able to avenge one of it’s most disappointing losses of the season on Wednesday night, beating UConn for the first time since 2011, by a score of 70-61.
“Before the game we talked about bouncing back after the Wichita game up there and we just happy to be able to get a win tonight against a solid team,” junior guard B.J. Taylor said.
In the Knights’ (14-7, 5-4 AAC) previous loss to the Huskies (11-11, 4-5, AAC) in Storrs, they had a hard time defending UConn’s top players, as three Huskies combined for 44 of the teams 62 points in that game. They were also without Taylor, who in this game, came up big at the end of the game and led the team with 20 points.
“Tonight he really did a good job,” Dawkins said of Taylor’s performance. “He came up big for us, he was very efficient.”
In the first half, the Knights put together one of their best defensive stretches of the season. Primarily playing in a 2-3 zone, the Knights were able to hold the Huskies to just five points through the first 10 minutes of the first half. Sophomore center Rokas Ulvydas took two charges in that span and they forced five turnovers as a team. They couldn’t get any offense to accompany the defense however, as UCF only had 11 points itself during that span.
“Tonight was more of a slugfest early on. I thought both teams were just really digging in defensively,” coach Johnny Dawkins said. “What we wanted to do tonight was we wanted to just really limit the touches and opportunities for some of their better players.”
The last 10 minutes of the first half played out far differently than the first 10, as both teams combined for 44 points and no turnovers. Taylor helped jumpstart the offense as he accounted for nine of UCF’s 20 points over that span. The Huskies were able to get the three-point shot going, making five of their six attempts over that 10 minute span.
After trailing for all but a minute in the first half, UConn made a three with 32 seconds left to tie the game at 29-29. UCF would take the lead back and into the half at 31-29 on the very next possession when sophomore point guard Terrell Allen beat the buzzer with a tip-in layup off his own miss.
The pace of the game picked up in the second half, as the Huskies turned up their defensive pressure. The Knights were able to increase their lead to nine points with 16:50 left in the game. They were not able to hold this lead however, as a number of UCF turnovers, totaling seven in the half, allowed UConn to tie the game at 50-50 with 6:25 left in the game.
Taylor, who was coming off one of his least efficient games of the season, scored six of the Knights next eight points to help them regain the lead at 59-54 with just under two minutes left.
“At the end of the day, B.J. makes them go. He was terrific today,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “He really pretty much controlled the game. We couldn’t keep him out of our yard. He made plays for not only himself, but for his teammates. And whenever they needed a bucket, he got to the free throw line or made a lay-up.”
Although the Knights struggled from the free throw line again in the is game, making just 62 percent of their season high 34 free throws, a combination of Taylor, A.J. Davis and Ceasar DeJesus would go 9-10 from the line over the final 50 seconds to put the game away.
“We’re doing a number of different things with them at the free throw line,” Dawkins said. “They are all good enough shooters, where we can be more consistent from the line.”
Dayon Griffin continued to play well, as he finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Chad Brown and Davis both finished with 10.
UCF plays Houston on Saturday at home in an important conference game.
“This is a quick turn around for us. We play noon on Saturday against a really good Houston team,” Taylor said. “The conference games are coming down the road quick for us now, and we have to be locked in for every one, because we need every win.”