UCF Knights Fall Short at Home 63-54 Against No. 6 Houston Cougars

Knights play tulane on wednesday

Sixth-rated Houston utilized a solid second-half defensive effort to hold off a game UCF team down the stretch and maintain the Cougars’ unbeaten status with a 63-54 win Saturday afternoon at Additional Financial Arena. (UCF image)

ORLANDO, FLORIDA — Sixth-rated Houston utilized a solid second-half defensive effort to hold off a game UCF team down the stretch and maintain the Cougars’ unbeaten status with a 63-54 win Saturday afternoon at Additional Financial Arena.

The Knights had their chances late, until four empty possessions (two turnovers and two missed shots) with UCF down by only three points at 48-45 thwarted the home team’s opportunity.

Johnny Dawkins’ crew still trailed only 52-48 at the 2:15 mark before the Cougars closed it out with nine made free throws in the last 1:52.

Both teams struggled to find the iron in the last 10 minutes, at one point missing 16 of 18 combined field-goal attempts.

The Knights’ Darius Perry scored a basket at the 8:54 mark to cut the Houston lead to 46-41, but UCF then went more than eight minutes without a field goal.

From there the Cougars steadily built their advantage to as many as 11, with UCF managing mostly free throws the rest of the way.

Houston limited the Knights to eight-of-23 shooting from the floor (.348) after intermission—with UCF missing all four of its three-point attempts in the final 20 minutes.

The Knights had 17 turnovers overall, compared to 10 for Houston.

“They made some big plays the last two minutes and they were strong defensively all night,” said Dawkins. “They wear you down all the time and that showed up down the stretch with some of our decision-making and turnovers.

“We have to value the ball more than we did. We did not shoot as well behind the arc (2-13) as we have been. It was a fistfight type of game. They don’t give an inch, and I thought our guys embraced that from the start. We just need to be a little more poised offensively and with our shot selection. They finished the game better than we were able to and that was the difference.”

Brandon Mahan and Perry headlined the Knights with 13 points apiece—with nine of Perry’s points coming from the free-throw line. Darin Green Jr, added a dozen points. (UCF image)

Brandon Mahan and Perry headlined the Knights with 13 points apiece—with nine of Perry’s points coming from the free-throw line. Darin Green Jr, added a dozen points.

The Knights claimed a 38-28 edge in rebounds, led by 10 by Dre Fuller Jr.

“We just couldn’t string together enough stops in a row,” said Perry.

“In the first half we played some really good defense, holding them to 25 points. The second half they took advantage, and we did not take care of the ball the way we should have. They punched us first to start the second half and we never punched back.

“But there’s a lot to build on coming forward—it was a four-point game with two minutes to go.”

Sophomore guard Marcus Sasser paced the Cougars with 19 points, including four three-pointers. Caleb Mills came off the bench for a dozen more, while DeJon Jarreau had 10.

Quentin Grimes came in leading Houston with a 20-point average per game—but the Knights limited him to two-of-eight field-goal shooting and only nine points.

The teams played to a 25-25 standoff in a defense-dominated first half. The home team hit five of its first seven shots as the UCF zone forced the frigid Cougars to miss 10 consecutive shots at one point. A 14-1 Knight run built a 14-4 lead at the 12:04 mark. (UCF image)

The teams played to a 25-25 standoff in a defense-dominated first half. The home team hit five of its first seven shots as the UCF zone forced the frigid Cougars to miss 10 consecutive shots at one point. A 14-1 Knight run built a 14-4 lead at the 12:04 mark.

Then Houston flipped the script, going on its own 14-1 run as UCF went more than seven minutes without a field goal. The score was tied three times, and the lead changed hands on four occasions.

The Knights conclude their three-game homestand at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Addition Financial Arena against Tulane (5-2).

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