The UCF men’s basketball team was victorious in its National Invitation Tournament (NIT) first round matchup, dominating their in-state foe Florida, 67-49.
The Knights will now visit Oregon, the top seed of the region, on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET inside Matthew Knight Arena. The first meeting in program history between the Knights and Ducks will be televised on ESPNU.
“I thought our guys came ready and prepared, I think both teams played hard,” said UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins. “After they got off to a 9-2 start, I thought our guys really locked in and were really focused. We were able to turn them over which gave us some chances to get some easy baskets and really get some momentum to end the first half.”
The Knights had a stellar defensive effort to thank for their first win in Gainesville in program history. Florida’s 49 points marked the Gators’ lowest scoring performance on their home court since Jan. 13, 1962.
UCF flustered the Gators into committing 18 turnovers when the final buzzer sounded, the most in UCF’s NIT history.
Senior guard C.J. Kelly led the way for UCF on the stat sheet, scoring 21 points while adding four rebounds and two assists. Freshman standout Taylor Hendricks added 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks while senior guard Ithiel Horton scored 12 points with four rebounds and three steals.
The Knights are now 22-8 against opposing schools from The Sunshine State during the Dawkins era. Two wins were added to that tally earlier this year as UCF beat Florida State 68-54 on Nov. 11 and topped Stetson 73-58 on Dec. 21.
In the three victories over Florida foes this season, UCF has outscored them by an average of 15.7 points.
“To me, it’s a really good win,” said Dawkins. “We look at it as we have a really good state with a lot of talented teams and really good coaches, and so I think the opportunity to play each other is always good and I’m glad we had the opportunity to play against the Gators today.”
The Knights advance past the first round of the NIT for the second time in program history in three total attempts. UCF’s 2016-17 team punched their second-round ticket with a 79-74 win at home over Colorado six years ago to the day, representing the program’s first postseason win. That victory sparked the Knights’ run to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York that season. The Black and Gold are now 4-2 all-time in the NIT.