The UCF men’s basketball team continues to achieve program firsts under the leadership of Johnny Dawkins. On Saturday the Knights earned their first ever win on the road at UConn, topping the Huskies 65-53 for their sixth straight victory.
“I was really, really proud,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said of his team’s defense in the win. “It was one of our best defensive efforts this year. Our guys had to really be locked in and I think they were for the whole 40 minutes.”
After falling behind 7-0 to start, the Knights (12-2, 2-0) fought back and locked down UConn, holding the Huskies (9-6, 0-2) to just 53 points and 32.2 percent shooting from the field. It marked UCF’s sixth time this season holding its opponent to less than 60 points.
The Knights led 33-30 at the break and increased their lead to as many as eight points before the Huskies fought back to tie the game at 40-40 with 14:45 to play in the game.
With the crowd into it at the XL Center, the Knights didn’t give in. On the next possession, Collin Smith converted a conventional three-point play and UCF never looked back. Over the final 14:45, the Black and Gold held UConn to just 13 points and just four field goals.
UCF’s offensive efficiency has been stellar as of late and that didn’t change on Saturday, as the Knights topped their season-best 60.4 percent from the floor against Temple with a new mark of 61.1 percent in the win over UConn.
Junior guard Aubrey Dawkins led all players with a season-high 23 points. He was a blistering 9-of-13 from the floor and went 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.
“He was aggressive,” Coach Dawkins said of Aubrey. “I like the fact that he was aggressive. He knows the shots that he likes. We’re just trying to put him in position to get those kinds of looks and his teammates believe in him.”
BJ Taylor added 12 points, while Dayon Griffin scored a season-high nine points in the victory. Griffin was 3-of-3 from the floor and 1-of-1 from beyond the arc.
“As a senior, he really stepped up in a hostile environment and played one of his best games,” Dawkins said of Griffin. “We’re going to need that. We’re going to need guys to come in and step up like that. He did that tonight.”
UCF was able to fight past UConn’s advantage on the boards. The Huskies out-boarded the Knights 37-23 and had an almost impossible 17-0 advantage in offensive rebounds. Thankfully, the Huskies only turned those 17 rebounds into six second-chance points.
The Knights took advantage of getting to the line. UCF totaled 29 free throw attempts, making 10 for a pretty nice mark of 69.0 percent for the game.
At 2-0 and 12-2 overall, UCF returns to action on Jan. 13 at home. The Knights host ECU, who defeated Cincinnati on Saturday, at 4 p.m. at CFE Arena.
Fans can purchase tickets for the 2018-19 UCF men’s basketball season by calling (407) 823-1000 or online here: https://ucfknights.co/mbb1819tix.