The Knights (11-4, 2-1) defeated Memphis (9-6, 0-2) at home last year in the regular season, and then eliminated the Tigers from the American Athletic Conference Tournament in the quarterfinals in Hartford.
UCF made it three in a row on Wednesday, winning 65-56 at CFE Arena.
“I thought it was a night where both teams were really battling it out,” Dawkins said. “I thought both teams played with a certain sense of desperation. I just really thought it was going to be a real physical battle and it was. Our guys really locked in.”
The Knights got it done with defense yet again. UCF held Memphis to just 56 points, its third straight game of holding an opponent under 60. Additionally, over the last six games, the Knights opponents are averaging just under 54 points per game.
“We’re going to miss some shots some nights and we’re going to be slow on offense some nights, but we can play defense every single night,” senior A.J. Davis said. “That’s why we take so much pride in playing defense. That’s kind of where we hang our hat, it’s where we start every night and it gives us a chance to win every night.”
Trailing by four early in the second half, the Knights offense kicked it up a level, using a 14-2 run to take an eight-point lead that ultimately allowed them to pull away for their second conference victory.
Freshman Ceasar DeJesus and junior Dayon Griffin ignited the spurt, scoring 11 of the 14 points. The former nailed a runner to start it and followed with his only three-pointer of the game. The latter knocked down two of his three triples in the game to help build the UCF lead.
DeJesus, the current Rookie of the Week in The American, was in double figures for the second straight game, finishing with 14 points and two assists. Griffin scored 13 to notch double figures for the fourth time in the last five games.
“He was able to step up and do the things that we challenge him to do,” Dawkins said of Griffin. “He’s one of our scorers. He had a couple of good looks in the first half that just didn’t go and that’s the nature of our game. I think the more he gets comfortable and the more he gets with our system and the more we get chemistry with our team, I think that he’ll become more consistent for us.”
It was Davis, however, who led the way once again. He was able to get to the line at ease, finishing 11-of-16 from the stripe, and totaling 16 points. On the other end, Davis recorded two steals and had one block in the victory.
The league leader in rebounds finished with 11 boards for his fifth double-double of the season.
“We’ve been in a lot of low scoring games so for us if it’s a low scoring game we’re comfortable,” Dawkins said “If the score gets run up then we’re comfortable with that as well. For us when it was a low scoring game we were fine; we were just trying to find out ways to defend better.”
Kareem Brewton Jr. led Memphis with 15 points, while the Tigers’ leading scorer Jeremiah Martin was held to just four points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field.
UCF will return to action on Sunday, playing host to Temple at noon on CBS Sports Network.