Dazon Ingram made two clutch free throws with 10.8 seconds left and the UCF Knights made a defensive stop at end of the game to hold on to a 55-54 win over the South Florida Bulls in front of a LOUD and active crowd of 6,433 at Addition Financial Arena on Saturday. It is the 9th straight win for the Knights in the series.
But it was not easy victory for the Knights, as they had to win a low scoring, half-court, defensive game against their rival, coming back from a 5-point deficit with 2:07 left in the game.
The Knights got a big three from Matt Milon to get within 54-52, followed by Dazon Ingram splitting free throws to get within 54-53. With 19.7 seconds left, Ingram drove to the basket and drew a foul, which led to his game-winning free throws.
South Florida head coach Brian Gregory was not happy with the officiating at the end of the game and made it known in the postgame:
With respect to Coach Gregory, there no was no foul on the last play of the game. If you watch it, there was no contact from Collin Smith or Dazon Ingram on Laquincy Rideau, who drove the basket. That was a good no-call from the refs, as you see below:
"...and USF just got slimed"— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) January 19, 2020
As far as the foul called on Rideau on Ingram’s drive, Gregory has a better case, although it looks like the ref called Rideau for the hand on the back of Ingram for the foul. I can see both sides on this whether it should have been called or not, but give Ingram credit for attacking and not settling for a jump shot, and then hitting the two clutch free throws.
But the game was decided by more than the last two plays. Let’s break down some other key factors in UCF’s win:
Is the Knights’ Defensive Identity Back?
The Knights’ defense held the Bulls to 35% shooting from the field and 4 of 26 from the 3-point line. It is the second straight game the Knights have held the opponent to under 40% shooting from the field.
UCF is 7-3 on the season when holding the opponent to under 40% shooting from the field. It is also the second consecutive game UCF held the opponent to under 60 points. They had done that only once in the previous 16 games.
As Johnny Dawkins mentioned in the post-game, this was a defensive win:
One of the concerns going into the game was how the Knights would be able to control the 1-2 scoring punch of David Collins and Laquincy Rideau, who came in averaging over 28 PPG combined. That is around 43% of the Bulls’ scoring.
The Knights held Collins and Rideau to a combined 17 points on just 6/26 shooting from the floor. That’s 11 points below their season average.
UCF Won the 3-Point Ball Battle
UCF shot the 3-ball well for the second consecutive game, going 7/18 from three against the Bulls’ defense that ranks last in the American and 297th in the country in guarding the three-point line. UCF also held the Bulls to 4/26 on the other end. Overall UCF outscored the Bulls 21-12 from long distance.
The Knights have gone 19/44 from long distance in the last two games, with Matt Milon leading the way. Milon, who was a 40%+ 3-point shooter at William & Mary, has been coming on as of a late, and is now 7/15 (46%) in the last two games, both UCF wins. Milon is in a good stretch, as he is 12 for his last 26 from 3 (46%) in his last four games after going 10/39 (25%) in his first 14 games.
Collin Smith Comes to Life in 2nd Half
After picking up two early fouls, Collin Smith sat out for the last 16:10 of the first half and did not score a point until around the 15-minute mark of the 2nd half.
Collin Smith fights through two defenders to score his first points of the game out of the media TO.— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) January 19, 2020
Smith ended up scoring all 9 of his points in the second half and made all 3 free throws he attempted, as he was an inside presence that UCF was missing in the first half.
Hopefully Smith can figure out a way to stay out of early foul trouble, which has been an issue at times this season. Coach Dawkins even joked in the post-game that they were used to playing with Collin on the bench with foul trouble. For the Knights to have a chance moving forward, Collin has to learn to play with fouls and avoid picking up quick fouls early.
It is a critical win for the Knights who improve to 11-7 overall and 2-4 in American with two tough games ahead against top 25 teams ahead, starting with a trip to Wichita State next Saturday night, followed by a visit from the Memphis Tigers to Orlando on January 29th.