UCF can cross another item off of its Conference USA bucket list. Thanks to a strong performance from Isaiah Sykes and some composed play down the stretch, the Knights picked up its first win in Dallas as UCF defeated SMU, 59-52, Saturday at Moody Coliseum. The victory was the first in four tries at SMU for the Knights, who improved to 17-6 overall and 6-3 in league play.
With seven conference games left on its schedule, UCF has already matched in C-USA win total from a year ago.
Sykes finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. He shot 4-of-5 overall, made his second career 3-pointer and shot 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Five of his eight rebounds were on the offensive end.
The Knights built an 11-point second half lead and then held off a late SMU rally to post the win. The Mustangs (10-13, 2-7 C-USA) got within two points with 3:58 to go in the game and also cut the UCF edge to 53-50 with 2:26 to play. The Knights responded at that point as Marcus Jordan, who led all players with 17 points, drained a 3-pointer with 1:16 on the clock that gave UCF a six-point edge. Jordan hit three free throws in the final minute to secure the win.
“Teams are going to make runs at you. I was really proud of how our guys kept their composure and finished the game,” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said.
In January, UCF had two other C-USA firsts – defeating Memphis and UAB for the first time.
“I am proud of these guys. I knew that it was going to be a tough road game,” Jones said. “There were a lot of good efforts tonight. I am just proud to come in and get a victory on the road.”
The Knights will now look forward to a pair of big C-USA games next week. The team hosts Marshall Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the UCF Arena and then plays at league leader Southern Miss Saturday.
SMU led 29-28 at the break but UCF opened the second half on a 14-2 run. Sykes had seven points during the run, which was capped by a layup from Josh Crittle that handed the Knights a 42-31 advantage with 14:29 to go.
The Knights recorded 14 offensive rebounds during the game and finished with a 34-24 edge on the glass.
UCF struggled offensively early and was down by as many as eight points in the first half, but the Knights used a 10-0 run to get back into the game. UCF held SMU scoreless for over five minutes and got a pair of 3-pointers from Tristan Spurlock during the spurt. His two free throws at the 6:50 mark gave the Knights an 18-16 advantage, their first lead of the game.
Five of UCF’s six first half field goals were from 3-point range as the team shot 28.6 percent from the field before the break.
Spurlock finished with 15 points off the bench. UCF shot 37.8 percent overall and made 17-of-22 shots from the floor (77.3 percent).
The game was the first C-USA contest in a week for the Knights, who did not play a game on Wednesday.