After an eight day layoff, the UCF Men’s Basketball team returned to action Saturday, winning handily over Hartford, 67-48.
The Knights didn’t appear to have any hangover after upsetting No. 4 UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament last week, blowing out an undersized Hartford team at the UCF Arena behind point guard Isaiah Sykes 22-point, 11-rebound effort.
“I was happy with the way we finished the game and started the game, but I wasn’t too happy in between there with our intensity level and how we competed,” Coach Donnie Jones said. “Having a week off for our guys, they have to realize that even though we’ve had some time off that the tournament is over. We have to put that behind us and lock into who we’re playing.”
The winless Hawks came to Orlando, and were able to present some problems for a UCF team fresh off of two new suspensions to Wayne Martin and P.J. Gaynor. Gaynor’s suspension is only for one-game, and will return to action next Saturday against Bethune-Cookman, while Martin is out indefinitely.
The Knights came out the gate hot, scoring 27 points in the first six minutes, but would take their foot off the gas and allow Hartford to reach within six at the half. After a big technical foul committed by Clayton Brothers of Hartford, the Knights seemed to gain a spark and were able to finish on a 22-8 run to end the game
“I think it was that tech that really sparked us a lot. We know we had to pick it up defensively. We started off the game- the first six minutes great,” Virginia-transfer Tristan Spurlock said. “Then we started to slack. We just really had to pick it up and pull it together. We didnt point any fingers, we just buckled down. They got tougher, and we got tougher.”
Sophomore Isaiah Sykes had his career high, with the 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Spurlock also chipped in with his own double-double, adding 10 points and 11 rebounds. The length and size of the Knights seemed to bother Hartford, who was held to five-of-28 from beyond the arc and was noticeably rattled by the rowdy UCF crowd.
“They were awesome (crowd)- they cheered and booed as we went on, and that was great. It gives us a little extra energy- that extra lilttle push when you’re tired. When you hear them chanting and screaming and yelling your name, it’s great,” Spurlock said.
The long layoff did not seem to affect the Knights in the early going, seeing action for the first time since returning from the Bahamas. The zone that was so effective in the defeat of UConn was not needed against Hartford as the full-court press did them in.
This was the Knights first victory ever against the America East opponent, losing their previous match-up in 1994, 69-62. This win also extends the Knights non-conference home winning streak to 14 games.
Next up for the Knights is another home game against Bethune-Cookman Saturday, Dec. 10 at 5 p.m.