ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team extended its win streak to seven games, its longest since the 2010-11 season, winning 76-65 over ECU to remain in first place in the American Athletic Conference standings at 3-0.
The Knights (13-2, 3-0) sprinted out to a 37-19 first half lead and stayed out in front from wire-to-wire to top the Pirates (8-8, 1-3) for the seventh straight time.
“We played a good ECU team, an ECU team that has been playing very well and very hard and that was evident tonight,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought our guys, especially in the first half, established a tempo that we wanted. We went to Tacko (Fall) and I think Tacko had one of his best halves of the year and that got us established offensively.”
UCF led 38-26 at the break, as Aubrey Dawkins – the team’s leading scorer in the three of the last four games – had just three points. Collin Smith and Tacko Fall led the way with 10 points and nine points, respectively, going an identical 4-for-4 from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
In the second half it was Dawkins who stepped up, scoring 15 of his team-high 18 in the frame. He connected on back-to-back buckets early in the second as part of a UCF 6-0 run, and then knocked down back-to-back threes less than a minute later, giving the Knights a 50-29 advantage, their largest lead of the night.
Dawkins finished 6-of-14 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free throw line, while adding six rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot and a steal. It was his 15th straight game scoring in double figures, the first UCF player to score in double figures in each of his first 15 games as a Knight.
Plagued by rebounding woes the last few times out, the Knights didn’t struggle to board against the Pirates, outrebounding ECU 45-38 in the game. After not coming up with a single offensive board last week at UConn, UCF had 16 on Sunday, which led to a 17-9 advantage in second chance points.
“Coming off the last game where we had zero offensive rebounds, it was an emphasis for us so to see our guys respond and get 16 offensive boards was big,” Dawkins said. “We needed every one of them tonight against a good team.”
Four Knights finished in double figures, as BJ Taylor totaled 14 points and a game-high six assists, Smith finished with 12 points and eight boards, and Fall ended up with 10 points and seven boards in the victory.
Terrell Allen and Chad Brown also added nine points and eight rebounds each. Allen’s eight boards tied a career-high and he added four steals.
“The biggest thing about rebounding is that it’s an extra energy stat,” Brown said. “That doesn’t take amazing skills to do or anything like that, it’s just heart and effort. That is something that we put a stamp on and something that we focused on this week and we got better today at it. I was proud of our guys to crash the glass and stay strong and that is something that we have to continue to do.”
The Knights will aim to continue their winning ways Wednesday when they play at Wichita State. UCF and the Shockers tip-off at 10 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.