their mark, each shot was followed up by a rebound that gave the Knights new life. The possession finally concluded when Terrell Allen drained a 3-pointer from the corner.
When asked afterward what he thought about his team’s improvement on the glass, coach Johnny Dawkins kept it short and direct.
“I’m happy,” he said with a laugh full of relief.
Said forward Chad Brown, who was one of three Knights with a teamhigh eight rebounds: “The biggest thing about rebounding is it’s an effort and energy stat. That doesn’t take amazing skills to do; it’s just heart and effort.
“That’s something that we put a stamp on and that’s something that we focused on this week, and we got better today at it. I was proud of our guys to be able to crash the glass and play strong. That’s something that we’ve got to continue to do.”
UCF came out strong in all facets in the first half. The Knights scored 18 of their first 20 points in the paint and developed a double-digit advantage just six minutes into the contest. The Knights’ defense held ECU to just 36 percent shooting and forced nine turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
The Knights kept rolling for most of the second half thanks to guard Aubrey Dawkins, who scored 16 of his team-high 18 points after the break.
But ECU freshman forward Jayden Gardner kept pulling his team back into contention. He entered Sunday averaging 20.5 points and 10 rebounds over his past 10 games. He put up 35 points and 20 rebounds against the Knights, the majority of which came in the latter half.
“The young man Gardner, he’s one of the best freshmen I’ve seen this year,” Johnny Dawkins said. “He’s relentless.”
The Pirates crept closer as the game’s pace became stilted by a cavalcade of whistles. There were 34 fouls issued in the second half, something which coach Dawkins said played a factor as the Knights shot just 35 percent after halftime.
“We fouled too much, put them on the line, and when everybody’s going to the free-throw line, the game becomes somewhat disjointed,” he said. “I think that’s what you saw happen, especially in the second half, and that’s not how we play.”
Still, the Knights were able to make enough plays to keep their winning streak alive and their conference record unblemished.
The Knights will head back out on the road to face the Wichita State Shockers on Wednesday night.
Aubrey Dawkins was asked if there’s one thing he hopes carries over from the day’s triumph to the Knights’ next game. His answer was unsurprising.
“Rebounding,” he said. “Keep doing a good job on that end and I think we’re a tough team to beat.”
UCF center Tacko Fall drives to the basket during the Knights’ win over East Carolina on Sunday at CFE Arena. COURTESY OF UCF ATHLETICS