UPDATE: The next postseason home game, against the University of Rhode Island, will be Monday at 7 p.m. at the UCF Arena. This weekend, 1,000 free student tickets for the Rhode Island game will be distributed at the baseball series against Columbia.
A 12-1 run, capped off with a posterizing dunk by Isaiah Sykes late in the second half, guided the UCF men’s basketball team to a 69-54 victory over St. Bonaventure in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational Wednesday night at the UCF Arena.
And the Knights high-and-low season continues.
“We definitely want to keep it going,” sophomore guard Marcus Jordan said. “We’ve always had an attitude of expecting to win and now that we still have games to play, we want to win them all.”
The Knights (20-11) will now advance to the second round of the CBI and host Rhode Island next Monday.
A back-and-forth game throughout the first 30 minutes of the game changed quickly when Marcus Jordan received a technical foul and two monster dunks by Sykes and center Tom Herzog gave the Knights the momentum and ultimately the game, as UCF once again showed their late-game resiliency.
With the win, UCF achieved its sixth 20-win season in program history and first postseason victory in five tries. The last time the Knights made the postseason was 2005, when they made a NCAA Tournament berth.
UCF was led by Jordan, who controlled the tempo of the game and helped rally the Knights. He finished the contest with 18 points and four rebounds.
Although the highlight reel plays might have sparked the Knights, it was really the team defense that nabbed them the win.
“We pressed and we wore them down a little bit. But we were also patient on offense,” head coach Donnie Jones said.
After the Bonnies (16-15) shot 48 percent in the first half of the game, the UCF defense used a full-court press and effective on-the-ball pressure to stifle them into shooting 38.5 percent from the field in the second half, including 1-for-10 from the three-point line.
UCF used the aggressive defense to force 16 turnovers, which converted into easy transition buckets. The Knights shot a solid 52 percent (25-for-48) from the field in the game, including great overall play from their bench.
The Knights bench outscored the Bonnies 37-10, led by guard A.J. Rompza, who posted 13 points and seven assists. Herzog came up big with 10 points and Sykes contributed nine points and six rebounds.
St. Bonaventure was led by Andrew Nicholson’s 20 points. Nicholson is 15th in the nation in scoring at 20.8 points per game. Ogo Adegboye chipped in with 13 points and six rebounds.
Overall, it was a great team effort from UCF, who are looking more like the nationally ranked team we saw in December that started out the season 14-0.
“I thought we looked like the team that played in December. I was really proud of the energy of our basketball team tonight,” Jones said.
The Knights will face another Atlantic-10 Conference team on Monday when they host the Rhode Island Rams in the second round of the CBI.