Tacko Fall slam dunk

UCF senior center Tacko Fall (24) dunks the ball during the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22. Fall scored 13 points and picked up 18 rebounds during the 73-58 victory for No. 9 seed UCF over No. 8 seed VCU at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The No. 9 seed UCF men’s basketball team won its first NCAA tournament game in program history by defeating the No. 8 seed VCU Rams 73-58 at Colonial Life Arena on Friday night. 

The matchup — in Columbia, South Carolina — marked the first time in 14 years the Knights have been to the tournament and the first time the team has ever received an at-large bid. 

UCF redshirt senior guard B.J. Taylor said the victory over the Rams is a huge step in the right direction, but said the Knights only have the next game on their mind.

“I think it’s hard for me to talk about it right now because we’re in the moment and we’re already getting ready for the next [game],” Taylor said. “It’s great for the program, it’s a great win but we’ll reflect on that after the season is over."

The Knights got off to a slow start and struggled to find their rhythm as they went 0 for 10 from the floor to start the game and were held scoreless by the Rams defense for the first 6:23 of the game.

UCF redshirt junior guard Aubrey Dawkins said the team had to shake off the nerves during those few minutes.

“It’s the biggest stage that UCF has been on,” Aubrey Dawkins said. “For us, we just had to shake the nerves off and get used to getting into the flow of the game.”

Redshirt junior guard Terrell Allen was the first one to score for the Knights and his bucket shifted UCF into the next gear. 

The Knights' went on multiple runs during the first half, including a 19-0 run from the end of the first half, bringing UCF up 43-24 with just over 15 minutes left in the game. 

UCF men's basketball head coach Johnny Dawkins said he thought the team played some of its best basketball during that stretch.

“Defensively, Tacko’s [Fall] presence was amazing,” Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought that we rebounded it well. We knew they were going to crash the glass hard and offensively, I thought we made a lot of connecting plays. We shared the basketball, guys found shots in rhythm, shots that they normally take."

The Knights fired on all cylinders as they shot 49.1 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from the three-point line.

UCF was very active on the defensive end as the team forced the Rams to shoot only 31.1 percent from the floor and forced 12 turnovers.

Senior center Tacko Fall contributed to the defensive effort as he had a game-high five blocks to go along with 18 rebounds.

Fall also had the Knights' first double-double in tournament history finishing with 13 points going 6-for-9 from the floor to go along with those 18 rebounds.

“Obviously, we have the size advantage,” Fall said. “We just took advantage of it and my teammates trust me and I was out there being aggressive just like I’m supposed to do every night and just try to make plays for us to win the ballgame.”

The No. 1 seed Duke defeated the No. 16 seed North Dakota State 82-65 earlier on Friday at Colonial Life Arena. 

The Knights will move on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they will face the Duke Blue Devils on Sunday at 5:15 p.m.

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