From: Orlando Sentinel Date of Publication: December 9, 2017
After snapping a three-game losing streak last week by beating a ranked opponent, the UCF men’s basketball team was looking to build on that momentum.
The Knights earned victory Saturday, taking down Southern 76-60 in front of an announced crowd of 4,139.
“I’d seen Southern play a lot of games this preseason and they’re a tough team,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “They’re a great shooting team, they have a great inside player in [Jared] Sam and it took a heck of a defensive effort, but I’m really proud of our guys.”
The Knights got an especially strong performance from sophomore center Tacko Fall, who dominated on both ends of the floor. He finished with a game-high 18 points on 80 percent shooting to go along with nine rebounds and a steal.
“I think Tacko was real efficient tonight,” Dawkins said. “I thought we found him and that’s something that we want to do, we want to get him the basketball when he has the opportunity to be able to receive it and make plays. His aggressiveness was there, he is hungry on the offensive end.”
Fall’s performance was especially impressive given that he is still working his way back to full strength after missing the first two games of the season due to a sore hip.
“I’m getting there, it’s a day-to-day process,” Fall said of his health. “I’m in the gym working, the guys are helping me out, the coaches are helping me out. So it’s just a day-to-day thing.”
Given Fall’s success, the team is especially excited to see how he will perform once he is healthy.
“He’s started getting into better shape now, he’s moving better,” Dawkins said. “I just think as he continues to grow in his mobility from the injury, I think he’s gonna be even better for us because he had a great summer.”
Despite shooting the ball well, the Knights fell behind early and had a difficult time attempting to pull away from the Jaguars in the first half, spending much of that time without the lead. UCF went into halftime shooting an impressive 50 percent from the field, but the Knights committed eight turnovers and allowed Southern to stay in the game.
“We just have a lot of unforced turnovers,” redshirt senior forward A.J. Davis said. “Little out-of-bounds or little travels and stuff like that. We just gotta kind of settle down and slow down a little bit and get the ball to where it’s supposed to go.”
Despite holding the Jaguars to 38 percent shooting, the Knights went into halftime with a two-point lead.
Coming out of halftime, however, UCF looked like a completely different team. The Knights shut down the Jaguars’ offense, going on a 10-2 run to take control for the rest of the game.
UCF finished the game shooting 53 percent from the field and also cut turnovers in the second half, allowing the team to build up a big lead even though Southern continued to score.
“We just got back to defensive principles, started really locking in on defense,” Davis said. “I think we were really sluggish at the beginning of the game but we locked in on defense and … we were pretty efficient in the first but we got even more efficient in the second half, just playing together, getting it inside and we were able to pull away.”
UCF will play at home again on Tuesday, taking on Southeastern Louisiana at 7 p.m.