When the UCF Knights fell to Cincinnati 60-50 on Feb. 8, the Bearcats were No. 11 in the nation and a big favorite. When the Knights got revenge with a 53-49 win Sunday afternoon, it was no less a shocker against the now No. 15 team that had dominated all season. Fans rushed the floor after the biggest upset victory the Knights had scored all season came in their final game on their home court.
“It was electric in there,” UCF Head Coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game.
But that win was slow in coming. It took more than three minutes for the first basket to fall, and with that the Bearcats (25-4, 14-2) began building a lead that would hold until near the 10-minute mark in the first half. B.J. Taylor did his best to get the Knights (19-10, 10-7) back into the game with an early three-pointer and a few snag-and-shoots that eventually put the Knights over the top.
That mid-period lead was challenged repeatedly by the Bearcats, as the lead swapped seven times before the Knights pulled away by a long basket before the half.
Despite a brutal fight for the lead, the Bearcats would never hold it again, with the Knights fighting them off with suffocating defense that would hold the Bearcats to near season lows in shooting percentage, with Cincinnati shooting just 26 percent in the second half. The Bearcats’ Jarron Cumberland, who led the team with 10 points in the first period, posted only a successful free throw in the second half.
Meanwhile Taylor hit the gas, draining 27 points for the game high by more than a dozen, tacking on three rebounds at the same time. That personal mission led to an unlikely win against the No. 15 team in the NCAA and vaulted UCF to the fourth rung on the American Athletic Conference ladder.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight and we were just determined to get the win,” Taylor said after the game.
Just one game remains on the Knights’ radar before the regular season closes out, and it’s a big one, against a rival USF Bulls team that’s collapsed on the court. At 1-15 in the AAC, USF, which has only won seven games overall this season, also holds the worst record in the conference.
The last time the Knights met the Bulls, on Jan. 17, they trounced them 86-64. The game starts at 7 p.m. tonight in Tampa.
UCF women’s basketball
Carrying a six-game winning streak that spanned nearly the entirety of February, the Knights fell 66-60 to Temple Monday in their last game of the regular season.
In a game that started with a 22-8 first quarter run by the Owls and ended with a 22-13 fourth quarter comeback attempt by the Knights, a frenzy of shooting ratcheted up the score. Three Knights were in double digits, with Aliyah Gregory again leading the way with 19 points, shooting 56 percent.