Led by Taylor Hendricks's 19 points and dominant team defense, the UCF Knights defeated Santa Clara 57-50 to win the 2022 Baha Mar Championship and improve to 4-1 on the season.
It is the first regular season non-home tournament the Knights have won since the 2004 BP Top of the World Classic in Alaska.
The Knights held the Broncos to 31% from the field and 26 points below their scoring average.
Here are my three points from the weekend:
1. This Team Has Grit
That is one of the things that UCF Head Coach Johnny Dawkins has learned about his team through the first five games of the season. That was showcased this weekend in the tournament, starting on Friday night, coming back from 17 points down to beat Oklahoma State 60-56 in overtime.
On Sunday they had an answer for each time the Broncos tried to get back into the game.
Tyem Freeman was a great symbol of the grit on this team, with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and a team-leading +14 when on the court.
This team has shown grit despite dealing with injuries to Freeman, Darius Johnson, and C.J. Walker, who was out on Sunday.
2. Defense Is the Identity of This Team
The Knights' defense held Oklahoma State and Santa Clara under 60 points and under 32% shooting from the field in the wins.
For UCF to compete in the Big 12 next year and beyond, Friday night was the blueprint, holding the Cowboys to 29% from the field and 2/20 from the 3-point line.
UCF also was able to bang around with the Cowboys’ bigs, including Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (and former Memphis Tiger) Moussa Cisse.
On Sunday, the Knights held the Broncos' offense to its lowest scoring and shooting totals of the season while holding them to 8/29 from the 3-point line. This has been the best stretch of defense from UCF since the 2019 NCAA Tournament season.
3. Taylor Hendricks is Special
I know I have said that before but it needs to be said again: Taylor Hendricks is special!
Hendricks was tournament MVP, averaging 17.5 points and 8 rebounds per game, and scoring a game-high 19 points in the title game. Against Cisse and Oklahoma State, Hendricks had a double-double with 16 points and 12 boards.
He is someone you need to see in person to appreciate him.
Next up: UCF is back home Wednesday to face Evansville at 7 p.m. ET.