‘Efficient’ UCF takes 5th in Anaheim
Forward Collin Smith contributed a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds. He scored eight of those points in the first five minutes of the second half as the Knights led by no fewer than eight after halftime. And when Smith wasn’t scoring, he was finding other UCF players who could. Smith had five of the Knights’ season-high 19 assists. They also committed a season-low five turnovers.
“If [the defense] closes up on me, I’m going to take the drive, go either left or right,” Smith said. “And if they double down, I just make plays for my teammates by getting it out, and they’re going to hit because there’s shooters all around us. Our guys are getting more confident now, so this is helping us just mesh better as a team.”
Three other Knights — guards Dre Fuller Jr., Frank Bertz and Brandon Mahan — reached double figures in points.
Although point guard Dazon Ingram tallied only two points, he helped out with nine rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers. Ingram has dished out 20 assists and committed just one turnover through the past four games.
UCF’s defense restrained the Cougars to just 37.3% shooting, including an eight-minute stretch in the second half where Charleston made only one field goal. The Cougars’ star player, Orlando native Grant Riller, paced Charleston’s offense with 17 points, but his playing time was limited due to three first-half fouls.
The Knights switched their defense often in the latter stages, going back and forth between zone and man-to-man. Dawkins thought his team handled the fluctuations well.
“We tried to do a few different things against Charleston because they’re so good, and Riller is one of the best players in the country, an NBA-caliber guard,” he said. “So we tried to mix up some coverages and keep them off balance. For our guys to be able to execute that type of game plan on the fly, I thought that says a lot about them, and it says a lot about our growth over the season.”
Overall, Dawkins said it was a successful few days for the Knights, who dropped their first game in California by one point but responded to win their last two by a combined margin of 34.
“I learned that we have a lot of potential,” Dawkins said. “… I’ve always liked our resilience. I like the fact that we compete for 40 minutes. That’s something to build off, and we’ve shown that in every game.”
“It was definitely a good trip for us. If you win it, it’s a great trip, of course, and that’s the difference.”
The Knights will return to Orlando to begin a fourgame homestand. Up first are the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders on Saturday. Tipoff at Addition Financial Arena is scheduled for noon.
UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said the Knights improved during the Wooden Legacy tournament.