Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Knights aim to build off 2 straight victories
Posted on a wall inside the UCF men’s basketball practice facility is a short message: “Keep it simple.”
That’s just what the Knights did against Tulsa Saturday night at Addition Financial Arena when they prevailed 96-52 for their second straight win to get back to a .500 record in AAC play.
UCF (15-9, 6-6 AAC) totaled a season-high 28 assists while committing a season-low 3 turnovers vs. the Golden Hurricane.
“I feel like we hit the open guys and let the guys make the open play,” said UCF point guard Darius Johnson, who recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists.
Knights coach Johnny Dawkins said he’d like to see his team continue to keep things simple on offense with six games remaining in the regular season.
“That’s the way you avoid turning the ball over,” he said.
UCF didn’t come out and just suddenly connect on offense against Tulsa, either. The offensive success began the game prior when the Knights snapped a 5-game losing streak by winning 72-67 at Wichita State on Wednesday.
Dawkins’ squad outscored the Shockers 42-31 in the second half while using an 11-2 run that started at the 4:16 mark and lasted more than two minutes.
Johnson said UCF’s win on the road at Wichita State, the first in program history, helped the Knights get back on their feet.
“It was helpful heading into this game,” Dawkins said. “Before we played Tulsa, we talked about starting where we finished. We only had 3 turnovers in the second half [at Wichita State] and I said, ‘Let’s continue to build off that.’
“I would have never guessed we’d only have 3 turnovers the entire 40 minutes,” he added. “The guys really took that to heart and valued the basketball.”
Dawkins stressed the importance of his team playing to their strengths on the court as the key to capturing two wins in a row.
“We did a lot of that [against Tulsa] and we did a lot of that in the second half against Wichita,” he said. “That allowed us to keep our turnovers low. I want to continue to build off what we did.”
Building off what the Knights did vs. the Golden Hurricane (5-19, 1-12 AAC) won’t be as easy against Memphis, where they play Thursday.
UCF needed double-overtime and a season-high 107 points to defeat the Tigers (19-6, 9-3 AAC) in Orlando on Jan. 11.
This time around, however, the Knights know they’ll need to buckle down on defense in order to win.
“Just keep the same mindset — defense. If we lock in on defense, our offense will come,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of offensively skilled guys and we have a great defensive team.”