STORRS, CONN. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team wasn’t able to come away with its first win at UConn, as the Huskies defended home court and won 62-53 at Gampel Pavilion Wednesday night.
“It was difficult,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said about the loss. “They’re obviously a good basketball team and they had a great environment. But we have to be better.”
UConn (9-7, 2-2), which now holds an 11-1 advantage over UCF in the all-time series between the two teams, scored the most points against UCF through the early going in American Athletic Conference play. The Knights had been holding league opponents to just 47.5 points per game.
UCF (12-5, 3-2) shot just 36.5 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from beyond the arc, while turning the ball over 15 times in the defeat.
Unlike in the victory over Temple on Sunday, the Knights were unable to shut down UConn’s “big three” on Wednesday. Christian Vital, Jalen Adams and Terry Larrier all scored in double figures for the Huskies.
Vital led the way with 18 points, including 8-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. UCF, which came in to the game ranked eighth in the country for least personal fouls, allowed UConn to shoot 21 free throws. And to the Huskies’ credit, they knocked down 20 of them.
UConn used an 8-0 run late in the first half, including a three-pointer at the buzzer, to take a 30-21 lead at the break. The Huskies then came out firing to start the second, extending their lead to 14 points early on, and it was all uphill from there for UCF.
The Knights fought back, cutting it to a one-point game, at 37-36, midway through the second half. Sophomore point guard Terrell Allen started the run with a pair of free throws and a feed to Tacko Fall for a three-point play, and he capped it with one of his two three-pointers in the game.
“We picked up our intensity,” Dawkins said of the run. “I thought we were a little more aggressive. We got out in transition and ran.”
The Huskies quickly regained the momentum, leading by double figures again after a 9-0 run, and the Knights never recovered.
Allen and Fall both finished in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively, but it was redshirt freshman Ceasar DeJesus who led the way scoring. The reigning back-to-back Rookie of the Week in The American scored 13 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out a team high four assists.
UCF will now have five days off before returning to the court on Jan. 16. The Knights host no. 13 Cincinnati at 7 p.m. at CFE Arena.