Saturday afternoon’s tilt between the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks and the UCF Knights featured two teams trending in opposite directions.
On one side, the Hawks have struggled out of the gate in 2016-17, winning just one of their first nine games of the season. Their lone win came against Central Penn, an 87-74 victory that ended an eight-game losing streak that dated back to last season.
Including Saturday against the Knights, eight of the Hawks’ first ten games had been on the road.
On the flip side, the Knights are a team trending upwards early in the season, entering Saturday’s contest with a 6-1 record. Their lone loss was a 10-point loss to the Villanova Wildcats. UCF entered their matchup with the Hawks on a three game winning streak.
When the dust settled on Saturday evening, both trends would continue.
UCF opened the game on an 11-0 run, and never looked back. The Hawks never led on the night, and the Knights cruised to the 76-58 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
The Knights opened the contest on an 11-0 run, with four different players getting on the scoreboard over the stretch. Tacko Fall opened the game with a three point play, and Nick Banyard capped off the run with a dunk at the 16:33 mark.
Eastern Shore didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 15:44 mark of the opening half, when Dontae Caldwell got a layup to fall to end the Hawks’ scoring drought.
Caldwell’s layup kicked off a 13-2 run for the Hawks that tied the game up at 13-all. That was the last time that the two teams would be tied the rest of the way.
A 13-2 run from the Knights, highlighted by a three pointer from A.J. Davis and three points from Fall, put the Knights back in the driver’s seat. The run resulted in a 26-15 lead for UCF.
UCF maintained their lead throughout the remainder of the first half, and took a 37-25 lead into the break.
In the second half, the Hawks continued to fight, trying to get to within striking distance early to give themselves a chance at the win. With 10:56 to play in the game, Tyler Jones got a tip-in to fall, bringing the Hawks to within seven points, at 51-44.
That was the closest as Eastern Shore would get.
Over the next four-plus minutes, the Hawks were held to a single point, a free throw from Bakari Copeland, and the Knights once again blew the game open. A trio of three pointers from Matt Williams highlighted a 14-1 run that gave the Knights a 20-point lead.
Credit the Hawks for continuing to fight down to the wire, but it wasn’t enough on this night, as the UCF Knights never trailed in their 76-58 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Head coach Bobby Collins took some positives from the loss, but he knows there’s plenty of work to be done with the program.
“We did some good things,” said Collins, in a post-game interview. “We just didn’t sustain. We made a run and we fought. We gave ourselves a chance, but that is a very good basketball team especially when they have shooters around a 7-6 guy in Tacko Fall. He’s a special player and they just did a very good job executing their offense.”
The biggest issue for the Hawks so far this season has been consistency, and Collins went on to address that in his post-game interview.
Senior forward Bakari Copeland was the lone player for the Hawks to score in double-figures. He scored a team-high 16 points, while going just 5-of-14 from the floor in the loss.
Ryan Andino cooled off a bit after back-to-back impressive outings in his last two games, recording just 9 points on just 2-of-11 shooting from the floor.
Matt Williams scored a game-high 23 points for the Knights, and added 10 rebounds for the double-double. Tacko Fall also put together a double-double performance, scoring 10 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in the win.
Tanksley Efianayi rounded out the trio of Knights in double-figures, as he chipped in with 20 points.
The loss was the second in a row to kick off a six-game road swing for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (1-9, 0-0). The road doesn’t get any easier, as the Hawks will take on the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, MI on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the UCF Knights (7-1, 0-0) push their winning streak to four games, and continue their strong play to open the season. They will go for their eighth win of the season on Monday night, when they take on the Penn Quakers.
– T. Bennett