BJ Taylor’s game-high 24 points led way as the Knights rolled to victory over the Crimson Tide by a score of 70-64.
15 of Taylor’s 24 came in the second half as he put the team on his back and carried them to the finish line. Taylor also had help from his backcourt mate in Aubrey Dawkins. The junior knocked down all 10 of his free throws en route to 16 points in 36 minutes.
The big difference in the game came in two separate forms for the Knights: free throws and fast breaks.
The team nailed 23 of its 70 points from the charity stripe compared to the Crimson Tide’s nine.
“It’s important that you have your free throw shooters handling the ball at the end of the game,” coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought we did a good job making sure those guys had the ball in those timely situations.”
And the Knights gained the fast break points advantage 13-6.
“We came out with a little bit more energy and a little bit more effort and it worked out for us.” guard Aubrey Dawkins said.
The Knights started this game out strong with a 12-point lead within the first ten minutes, forcing the Tide to play catchup all night long. Heading into halftime, the Knights’ lead was just four.
Alabama continued its momentum as part of a 23-9 run to gain the lead early in the second half, but UCF yanked the lead right back thanks to a beautiful sequence from Dawkins in which he drove to the hoop and picked a pocket for another easy two on the other end.
Alabama kept fighting back, large in part to freshman Kira Lewis Jr.’s team-high 14 points. Bama also won the rebounding battle 46-29 and their length and hustle on the boards kept them in all game long.
However, Taylor splashed consecutive threes on back-to-back possessions with 8:38 left in the second half to push UCF’s lead to six and the Knights never relinquished the lead.
The win is a massive one for the Knights as the Crimson Tide are one of the premier non-conference opponents on UCF’s schedule this season.
“It’s a great win for our program,” Taylor said. “It’s a résumé-building win as we go into March.”
The Knights will get another crack at an SEC team on Sunday when the team heads to Columbia to face the Missouri Tigers. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.