For just the second time in program history, the UCF Knights defeated the Memphis Tigers.
After losing four straight games, the Knights bounced back with a dominant 72-57 victory, holding the Tigers to just 30.2% shooting.
“The energy in the building was terrific,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “When they were making runs, just the fact that our crowd got up, people standing up, screaming and yelling at everyone out there, that’s meaningful. It really helped.”
Matt Williams led the team with 20 points after another hot night from the beyond the arc, shooting 5-8 on threes. It was Williams’ eighth game this season with five more of three-pointers. The Knights jumped out to an early lead, scoring the first 14 points of the game as they held the Tigers scoreless until the 14:53 mark in the first half.
The Tigers began to apply full-court press in the second half giving UCF some trouble moving the ball up the court. Despite a late run that saw the UCF lead go down to as little as 12, the Knights were able to hold off the Tigers for their sixth conference win of the season.
UCF struggled from the free throw line on Saturday, shooting just 50 percent from the line, while Memphis shot over 87 percent.
As UCF missed free throws, the Tigers started to hit threes. Dedric Lawson nailed a three then on the next possession was fouled driving to the paint. Lawson, who finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds, got the Tigers within nine points with less than two minutes to play. Lawson scored 11 of his 28 points in the last seven minutes of the game.
Although the Knights struggled from the free throw line, the team hit them when they mattered the most. BJ Taylor and Tacko Fall each hit a pair of free throws to ice the game for UCF. Taylor finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds, while Fall added 15 points and 9 rebounds.
The Knights moved the ball around well tonight totaling 14 assists and grabbing 40 rebounds. UCF shot 53.5 percent from the field. The team’s 14 assists were the most since the Jan. 17 win over USF.
“It was sharing the basketball and playing together,” Dawkins said of his team’s offense on Saturday. “It was just a really good team win,” said Dawkins.
UCF improves to (15-8) overall and (6-5) in American Athletic Conference play, while Memphis falls to 17-7 and 7-4 in conference play.
After breaking a four-game skid, UCF hopes to carry their momentum on the road as they face their toughest task of the season as they take on No. 14 Cincinnati on Wednesday.
“I think it was one of our best performances this year,” Dawkins said. “I think from beginning to end our guys were really focused, especially on the defensive end. We challenged them, because of the last few games we had and the scores that we gave up. I thought our guys really responded to it and it led to some good offense for us.”