(Aileen Perilla/KnightNews)

The 2017 UCF men’s basketball team made it further into the post-season than any other team in program history, all under the leadership of Johnny Dawkins in his first season as head coach.

The Knights faced the Big 12’s Texas Christian University in the National Invitation Tournament Semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City, only after clearing through the first three rounds of the tournament.


UCF was unable to close a second half gap of 15 points, despite competitive gameplay in the first half.

Sophomore Tacko Fall was the change in momentum the Knights hoped for, playing early in the first half then taking the bench to rest for a later entrance into the game. Halfway through the second half, Fall returned to the court making an immediate impact. The sophomore center built up seven points and six blocks before fouling out with a minute left in the game.

A.J. Davis was given the opportunity to play at The Garden just as his father did when he played for the NBA’s New York Knicks. Davis’ parents watched as the senior ignited Madison Square Garden with a dunk after a strong power through against a TCU guard. Davis enjoyed a fifteen point average in the past few games, including the three NIT victories claimed by UCF.

Senior Matt Williams also joined Davis in their final game with the Knights. Williams led most games and victories this season, along with Orlando native B.J. Taylor. Both Taylor and Williams played for 39 minutes Tuesday night and pulled 10 and 15 points, respectively for UCF in the semifinal.

Williams told Knights earlier in the season, that playing for UCF was the best decision he has ever made.

Fall and Williams broke UCF all-time records under the guidance of Dawkins in the 2016-17 season.

The Knights struggled at the three-point line, finishing at 24 percent for the night. Field goals for the night went 33.3 percent at 19-57, with TCU ending slightly better at 26-60. The final score for the game: 68-53.

On Wednesday, March 22, UCF fans and the Orlando community as a whole – the mayors of Orlando and Orange County, Orlando Magic, celebrity alumni, and more, including ten thousand fans on a two-day notice – gathered around the historic team as they played Illinois in the NIT Quarterfinals.

Knights fans completely sold out the CFE Arena for the first time ever for men’s basketball game. In a thrilling 68-58 victory at home, UCF showed the championship-caliber team it could be, to both the university and college basketball.

In his first season as head coach, Johnny Dawkins, turned around a team plagued by several seasons in the red, into a team that beat both Memphis for the second time in program history and No. 15 Cincinnati. The Knights went from a 12-18 season to one with 24 wins – the second-most in program history.

Dawkins has brought many accolades to UCF and it couldn’t have come at a better time. UCF Director of Athletics Danny White envisioned a future where UCF hosts first-class athletic facilities right on campus. White may see his vision come true now with a regularly winning men’s and women’s basketball team, a baseball team and potentially a football team.

Dawkins was also named a finalist for the 2017 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year award.

Stay tuned to Knight News for more of breaking, on-site coverage of UCF men’s basketball.