ORLANDO, Fla. — Life without point guard B.J. Taylor rolled on for UCF this evening.
And, rather smoothly at that.
After requiring 45 minutes to defeat Miami (OH) on Sunday, the Knights jumped on in-state rival Bethune-Cookman, marching to a 71-41 win in dominant fashion.
“I thought it was one of our best defensive efforts of the season,” said UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins. “In studying their players, I thought our team knew they were capable of scoring the basketball and our guys did a great job following the game plan.”
In addition to their defense. UCF’s offense was clicking on all cylinders from start to finish. The Knights shot 50.9% and tied a season-high with 11 triples.
Sunday’s hero Tacko Fall started a 9-0 spurt to seize a 14-6 lead early on. Two more of the 7’6″ center’s 20 points produced a 13-point Knights’ lead with 6:53 remaining in the first half.
Brandon Tabb, with one of his two triples, propelled the Wildcats on a small rally. Bethune-Cookman’s leading scorer scored all of his points in the segment, one in which his team pulled within seven at 29-22.
Aside from the 10-4 span, not much went right for Gravelle Craig’s club. The Wildcats were outscored 7-0 in the final two minutes of the first half and failed to score their first second-half points until the 15:56 mark.
During their opponent’s scoring drought, Matt Williams drilled back-to-back three-pointers, supplying UCF with its first 20+ lead of the contest.
Moments later, the Knights led by 31 on a layup by Chad Brown, which completed a 10-0 domination.
Once the deficit reached 30 points, Bethune-Cookman could only pull within 28 for the remainder of the game.
A free throw by Nathan Laing gave UCF its largest lead of the evening, 62-30.
Bethune-Cookman’s guard trio of Brandon Tabb, Reggie Baker, and Quinton Forrest were kept in check throughout the visit to CFE Arena. The three combined for a season-low 14 points on 5-for-32 shooting.
Tabb, who averaged 20.8 points per game coming in, and Baker, responsible for 14.1 points per game, both finished with personal season-lows. Tabb had six points, while the senior Baker was unable to post a point. Junior Jeffrey Altidort led the team with 11 points.
“He has like four made threes per game, that’s leading the nation basically,” said Dawkins of Tabb. “We had an awareness of where he was and really wanted to see if we could really focus and stay with him for the 40 minutes.”
UCF sophomore Tacko Fall persisted to dominate another mid-major. He is averaging 21 points and 11.5 rebounds per game over the past four games. The Sengal native also has recorded a block in every contest, including two tonight.
“I think we are all watching Tacko grow right before our eyes and that is always fun to see,” said Dawkins. “He is so efficient around the basketball. He is gaining confidence every game. Just watching him improve, watching his work ethic, is exciting.”
Knights’ senior Matt Williams also had a big night for Dawkins’ squad. The Orlando native posted 17 points and 7 rebounds. Sophomore Chad Brown had career-highs in 13 points and 7 rebounds.
“He is similar to Tacko; he is in that period of growth [for] a player that didn’t realize how good he can be,” Dawkins said. “The more times he can go out there and play extended minutes, the more confidence he is going to gain.”
Overall, UCF owned the glass, out-rebounding Bethune-Cookman, 53-22. The Knights had a 3:2 assist-to-turnover ratio (18 assists/12 turnovers).
3-10 Bethune-Cookman, completing a non-conference slate to forget, will open up MEAC play at Savannah State on December 4.
9-3 UCF will enjoy it’s Christmas holiday and then regroup for a road trip to Tulane, opening up American Athletic Conference play.
“We understand that now we are 0-0; this is a new season for us,” said Matt Williams of conference play. “We’re going to take a break and come back ready to compete.”
College Court Report will have coverage from CFE Arena when UCF returns home on December 31 versus Temple.
– P. Wesner