ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team ended the 2017-18 regular season on a high note. The Knights defeated visiting Tulane 60-51 in the final regular season home game in the career of senior A.J. Davis.
With the win the Knights (18-12, 9-9) secured the sixth seed in next week’s American Athletic Conference Championship and will take on 11thseeded ECU (10-19, 4-14) on Thursday. UCF and ECU will tip-off at 9 p.m. on ESPNU from the Amway Center in Orlando.
UCF, which came into Sunday’s contest third in the nation in scoring defense at 61.7 points per game, has now held its opponent to less than 60 points in 12 out of 30 games.
“We always throw words around like hard fought, but that was a hard-fought win,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game. “I thought both teams made the game look ugly at times because both teams were so engaged and locked in defensively.”
The Knights held Tulane to 51 points and just 35.2 percent shooting from the field. The Green Wave, which came in averaging 7.6 threes made per game, was only able to convert four makes beyond the arc, shooting 28.6 percent from distance.
“It wasn’t our best performance and probably wasn’t our worst, but we played good defense,” Davis said in the postgame presser. “They score the ball well, have a lot of different scorers, and can push the ball in transition. They can all post up, they can all shoot, and handle the ball while getting to the basket; They’re just really athletic. I think we played really good defensively and that helped us win the game.”
UCF led by seven points at the half and extended its lead to 12 points, at 34-22, early in the second half, before Tulane made a run. The Green Wave used a 16-4 run, capped by a dunk through traffic by Ray Ona Embo to tie the game at 38-38 with 10:50 to play.
“I’m proud of our guys. They showed a lot of heart to win that game,” Dawkins said. “Especially when Tulane came roaring back and took the lead. Our guys showed a lot of poise and a lot of heart to finish the game strong. I’m really proud of them.”
Tulane took a one-point lead at 43-42, but the back-and-forth action continued until the Knights were able to gain the advantage in the final two minutes.
With the game tied, B.J. Taylor knocked down his only three-pointer of the contest with 1:25 on the clock and the Knights never looked back.
After one Green Wave free throw, Dayon Griffin hit a three of his own to extend the lead to five points with 37 remaining. A steal and layup by Terrell Allen made it a seven-point game with 24 seconds left and essentially secured the victory.
Taylor led the Knights with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. Griffin added 13 points on three makes from three-point range, and Davis chipped in with 11 points, six boards and three assists.
Davis, in his final game in front of the fans at CFE Arena, eclipsed the 1,000-point mark with his first basket of the game. He was very appreciated of the fans after the game.
“They’ve been here through everything and they continue to support and love us the same,” he said of the UCF fans. “I just can’t say enough about our fans and everyone who supports us.”
UCF will open up the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday at the Amway Center. The sixth seeded Knights take on the 11th seeded ECU Pirates in the first round at 9 p.m.
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