“They were the aggressive team for the larger part of the game,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkinssaid. “In the second half we ratcheted up some and cut the lead down but you have to give them credit. They came in and right from the tip played a very physical, aggressive ball game and we have to learn from it.”
The Knights (14-8, 5-5) trailed by nine points at the half, and were down double digits early in the second frame, but cut the Cougars’ lead to just two points when B.J. Taylor scored five straight points to make it 50-48 with 9:32 to play.
“He knows what he’s supposed to do for us at different points and time in the game and he did what he’s told to do,” Dawkins said of Taylor. “He knows how to be assertive down the stretch and make sure we can get what we want every time down and he put himself in that position.”
Houston (17-5, 7-3) countered as it did all afternoon long, extending its lead to seven points, before UCF cut it to just two twice more, first on a three-pointer by Dayon Griffin with 2:43 on the clock and again on a layup by Taylor at the 2:13 mark.
The Knights were unable to get over the hump, as Houston’s Devin Davis drove for a layup and then converted two free throws on back-to-back possessions. The Cougars led 67-61 with 34 seconds to play and UCF was never able to catch up.
“Every loss in conference hurts. This one hurts, it was a good opportunity for us,” Taylor said. “Give them a lot of credit, they came out and played hard. They’re a good team.”
The Cougars had the advantage inside, outscoring the Knights 36-26 in the paint and holding a 13-7 advantage in second chance points. Houston had 12 offensive boards and outrebounded UCF 36-34.
“Second chance points, offensive rebounds, and all those areas where you’re getting in there and your scrapping to make those plays, they did a better job especially in the first half against us,” Dawkins said.
The Knights shot just 38.8 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, but was improved from the free throw line. UCF, which came in shooting just 62.4 percent from the stripe, stayed in the game by going 21-of-26 (80.8%) from the line.
Taylor led UCF with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting and had a team high four assists. A.J. Davis added 13 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. It marked his sixth double-double of the season and the 12th of his career.
It was the Cougars’ all-conference guard Rob Gray who led the way for Houston. Gray had game highs of 20 points, five assists and three steals in the win. Corey Davis Jr. added 15 points and two steals for the Cougars.
“We have to do a better job of understanding what we would settle for him getting,” Dawkins said of Gray. “You’re not going to stop Rob Gray. You have got to try to contain him and we have to do a better job of our defensive scheme in trying to contain him.”
UCF will next hit the road to take on No. 8 Cincinnati on Feb. 6. The Knights and the Bearcats will tip off at 7 p.m. from Highland Heights, Ky. on CBS Sports Network.
Season tickets for the 2017-18 campaign are on sale now. Fans looking to purchase tickets can call (407) 823-1000 or visit UCFKnights.com to secure them today. For men’s basketball tickets CLICK HERE.
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