The UCF Knights' defense played a key role in a bounce back win against Grambling State Tigers 70-45 on Saturday at the CFE Arena.
The 45 points Grambling State scored is the lowest total number of points UCF (7-2) has allowed an opposing team to score this season, with the next lowest being 52 points.
“I thought our guys really locked in for both halves,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “That’s something that we’ve been preaching, and I thought we got a great effort from our guys today.”
The Knights, as a team, combined for seven blocks and six steals in the game and limited Grambling State to 24 points in the paint.
The Knights’ defense went on multiple runs — most over four minutes — in the second half without allowing a single point.
UCF senior point guard B.J. Taylor said the Knights didn’t put out the same energy and effort against the Missouri Tigers on Sunday like they did in this game against Grambling. UCF lost to Missouri 62-64 in overtime at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.
The Knights led 30-23 at halftime, limiting the Tigers to 39 percent shooting from the field. UCF aimed to come out with the same energy in the second half defensively like they did in the first half.
“The biggest thing for us is making sure we came out second half with that same energy and try to hit them in the mouth and get us off to that good start,” Taylor said.
UCF held Grambling State to 23 percent shooting in the second half and 39 percent for the entire game.
One of the Knights' main focus defensively coming into the game against Grambling State was perimeter defense.
The Tigers came into the game shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. The Knights only allowed the Tigers to shoot 3-for-16 from beyond the arc, good for only 18.8 percent.
“For us to have any success, we had to make sure we slowed them down on the perimeter and our guys really did lock in on their perimeter players and I think made [it] difficult for them,” Dawkins said.
UCF junior guard Frank Bertz made his biggest impact of the season in the game. He played a little over 16 minutes, which is the most he has played all season.
Bertz had eight points off the bench including swishing both of his three-point attempts perfectly and got the crowd, and UCF’s bench, off their feet with an offensive put-back slam.
This is Bertz’s first season playing division one basketball after spending the previous two seasons at East Los Angeles College.
"It’s a big change honestly,” Bertz said. “I just like to bring energy off the bench, and it’s a great moment for me.
Taylor had a game-high 21 points that included shooting 3-for-7 from the three-point line and shot 8-for-9 from the free throw line. He also had five rebounds, a block and a steal.
The Knights will have a quick turnaround coming up, as they host the Georgia Southern Eagles on Tuesday at the CFE arena with tipoff at 7 p.m.