UCF Knights’ Win ‘The War on I-4’ After 55-54 Thriller Against South Florida Bulls

By  //  January 19, 2020

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NEXT UP: UCF vs. Wichita State ON Saturday

SPACE COAST DAILY TV: The Friday Night Locker Room’s Steve Wilson and Space Coast Daily’s Chris Bonanno were at Addition Financial Arena at UCF, wrapping up the Knights 55-54 win over USF in men’s basketball.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – The first round of the 2019-20 War On I-4 was a defensive battle. UCF, which held South Florida to 35.7 percent shooting from the floor, won it on a defensive stop in the final moments that gave the Knights a 55-54 victory over the visiting Bulls.

While UCF held South Florida down offensively for a majority of the game, it was the Knights’ 3-point defense that really stood out, allowing the Bulls to connect on just 15.4 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc.

Following a five-game losing skid, UCF (11-7, 2-4) has now won back-to-back games in conference play.

“We’re starting to get our groove back,” junior Collin Smith said about the last two wins. “We’re learning how to win again, and just taking our habits from the last game and taking them to the next.”

The Knights got off to a good start to the game, taking an early 13-6 advantage. Offensive struggles, and Smith getting into early foul trouble led to the Bulls fighting back and ending the first half with a 25-24 lead.

“We need Collin out there. We know who he is,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game. “But we’ve been in this situation so many times, I think our guys are understanding their roles, and understanding what to do in his absence.”

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Following the break, South Florida gained the advantage, taking a pair of 6-point leads early in the second half.  The Knights fought back with a 10-2 run, ignited by a Brandon Mahan 3-pointer and capped by a pair of free throws by Smith to make it 42-40 with 12 minutes to play.

But when the Bulls (8-10, 1-4) rallied again to take a 5-point lead with just 2:14 to play, it seemed the Knights’ conference woes might be back.

Senior Matt Milon had other ideas.

“Matt was so confident,” Dawkins said of Milon during the timeout. “He was like ‘guys, we’re alright. We’re ok.’ Right out of that we come out and run a play to Matt and hits a three and it’s a 2-point game.”

Milon’s three from the corner with 1:57 to play made it 54-52 and put the Knights right back in it.

The first round of the 2019-20 War On I-4 was a defensive battle. UCF, which held South Florida to 35.7 percent shooting from the floor, won it on a defensive stop in the final moments that gave the Knights a 55-54 victory over the visiting Bulls. (UCF Image)

After a defensive stop, Dazon Ingram got fouled and hit 1-of-2 from the line. Another stop by the Knights led to a timeout by Dawkins with 19 seconds left.

Following the stoppage, Ingram drove the basket and was fouled again. This time he hit both to give UCF a 1-point advantage with 13 seconds on the clock.

South Florida’s final offensive possession came up empty and the Knights survived with the 55-54 victory, their ninth straight over the Bulls.

Ceasar DeJesus and Ingram led UCF with 11 points each, with the latter adding a team-high five assists. Smith and Milon each added nine points, while Brandon Mahan chipped in with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

UCF will now enjoy a week off from competition before returning to action next Saturday at Wichita State. Tipoff from Kansas is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET with coverage on ESPNU and FM 96.9 The Game.

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