UCF Knights Win Exhibition Against Flagler Ahead of Season Opener

Written by Ernie Casanova

Orlando, FL – The CFE Arena Monday night wasn’t loaded with a spectacular amount of fans, nor was it hosting a top-tier basketball game. It was nothing more than just a tune-up exhibition match, but it was still a very eventful one. Orlando Magic rookie Mo Bamba was present to support this city’s college team, and a respectable crowd of people made their way into the CFE Arena to make some noise for the Knights during their competition. The Knights Men’s Basketball team gave the crowd a very promising look, as the tenacity and quick pace of play from tonight is what people expect to see going forward. Starting guard B.J Taylor picked up where he left off last season, and Tacko Fall had a strong start to his upcoming senior campaign. The rest of the supporting cast contributed greatly to lead the Knights to an 86-69 victory over the Flagler College Saints.


Tacko Fall got the first point on the board for the Knights, splitting a pair of free throws at the line due to an early foul. After a quick three-pointer from Flagler’s DeMari Davis, Fall scored a quick easy layup using the advantage of his frame and another one after a Vaughn McCall two-pointer for the Saints to tie it at five. Fall scored the first five points for the Knights, and Taylor took after the big man’s scoring spree and dropped the team’s next six points on his own.


Aubrey Dawkins debuted with the team today after missing last season with a shoulder injury and was a major contributor. Right after Taylor’s run, Dawkins’ first shot of the game was a three-pointer to bring their lead to 14-9 and the crowd went wild. Dawkins transferred from Michigan in order to be close to his father, and also play for him as he shares the same Dawkins name with head coach Johnny. He added an element of physicality and wing presence for this team that makes them look pretty intimidating going into a season where some say they have a lot to prove.


Flagler was fighting from early on, not letting the Knights pull away too early. About 10 minutes in, it became a double-digit lead for the Knights, and it wasn’t getting any prettier as the first half went on. The Knights led by as much as 21 points in the first half, and the Saints just wasn’t clicking on many of their attempts as they shot below 40% in the first half. In the second half, the Saints came out with a sense of urgency and although the deficit was already at 20, it wasn’t getting any larger. The Saints then went on a 10-0 run to cut the Knights’ lead to 56-46, but a Collin Smith dunk and an ensuing Chance McSpadden layup quickly shifted the momentum back to the Knights as they pulled away to bring their lead back to 20 shortly after. The Knights finished the contest with 13 steals and 38 bench points as this is the kind of team Orlando envisions will take the next step in getting into the dance come March.


“We’ve committed to defending and that’s been our identity since we’ve been here,” head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game. “I thought our guys got back to UCF defense. They had active hands, and we turned defense into offense, which is how we want to play.”


With the Saints giving it their best, it wasn’t enough to outlast a talented Knights team. McCall led Flagler with 23 points and two assists, with Chris Metzger coming in behind him with 12 points and five rebounds. Damerit Brown also had 11 points of his own, as only three of Flagler’s players scored more than eight points.


Fall led the Knights with 17 points, shooting 100% on the floor and adding four rebounds. “We want to get Tacko the ball,” says Dawkins. “As you can see, he’s a much-improved player. I can see him doing more things, he’s changing ends faster, he’s finishing around the basket at a high clip, he has post moves on the low block. All of those things make us better.”


Taylor used his explosiveness to score from all angles and poses as a dominant force when driving to the paint. He finished with 13 points on 66% shooting, along with six assists and four rebounds. Dawkins had 11 points with six coming from beyond the arc, and Ceasar DeJesus was a quiet hero with 12 points on 6-7 shooting to with four assists and two rebounds.


The Knights open their season against Rider at home on November 6th while Flagler has another exhibition match with another team from Florida in the USF Bulls on November 3rd.

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