Yes, the Knights (15-9, 6-6) have now won four in a row against the Memphis Tigers, dating back to last season, but the historic Memphis program has always had the upper hand on UCF. The Tigers still lead the series by a count of 21-5.
And prior to Sunday, UCF had never beaten the Tigers in Memphis (14-11, 5-7). Fourteen times the Knights traveled northwest to Bluff City and never left with a win. Times are changing.
“I told (the team) I was really proud of them,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We’ve been battling a lot of adversity. We come here to another (tough) environment against a team with a similar record, and we knew how big of a game this was. I thought they all stepped up and gave us their best effort.”
Davis was extremely efficient all day, scoring a season high 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the floor. He knocked down both his only free throw attempt and only three-point attempt of the game, with the latter giving the Knights an eight-point cushion with just three minutes remaining that essentially put the game away.
“I think he was aggressive,” Dawkins said of Davis. “I think he was focused. When he is aggressive and focused like that, he’s a really good scorer. Tonight, I think he knew we needed it.”
Taylor, meanwhile, came up big in the second half once again. Having taken over late in games too many times to count, the point guard scored 16 of his team high 22 points in the second half on Sunday, scoring the final four points down the stretch to ice the game.
“It was special,” Dawkins said of Taylor’s late-game heroics. “He stepped up and made a lot of plays for us down the stretch. We were trying to maintain the lead and we were calling his number. He is always going to make the play. I’m proud of him for doing that.”
Having struggled offensively of late, the Knights had an impressive bounce back, shooting 52.9 percent from the field. UCF was 27-of-51 from the floor, 6-of-16 from beyond the arc, and recorded 14 assists on 27 baskets.
The defense, meanwhile, which came into Sunday still ranked third in the nation in holding opponents to 61.3 points per game, came to play on the road. The Knights held Memphis to just 64 points, marking the 17th time this season they’ve held their opponent to less than 65 points.
Big men Chad Brown and Rokas Ulvydas were dominant in the paint, combining for seven blocks on the day. The four for Ulvydas were a career best, while Brown recorded three in a game for the sixth time in his career.
The Knights are now 15-9 overall and 6-6 in American Athletic Conference play. Still, the exact same position UCF was in a year ago. In fact, last season the Knights lost their 25th game of the year to fall to 15-10 before making a run late the regular season to secure an NIT berth.
“It’s always good for a program and good for our team,” Dawkins said of finally winning at Memphis. “Now they know they are capable. All of our players that are younger and players that are coming up through the program will know they are capable of doing something because it has been accomplished, which is a good thing. I’m proud of this group’s effort and making it happen.”
UCF will return home and host USF on Wednesday Feb. 14. The Knights and the Bulls will tip off at 6 p.m. from CFE Arena as UCF aims to sweep this season’s War On I-4 Rivalry Series.