‘Ef­fi­cient’ UCF takes 5th in Anaheim

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS MONDAY -

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.

RI­CARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDA/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said the Knights im­proved dur­ing the Wooden Legacy tour­na­ment.

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