The UCF Knights came out with a 61-58 victory in a close game against the SMU Mustangs at Addition Financial Arena Wednesday evening.
The Knights dominated in the first half — and went into halftime up by 19 points — but the Mustangs were able to make it a close ball game in the second half.
A strong defensive effort helped UCF suppress a comeback and take the win in the American Athletic Conference match.
The Knights started off the game red hot, going on a 19-0 run with the aid of five three-pointers. UCF freshman guard Darin Green Jr. and junior guard Brandon Mahan helped maintain this lead for the entire first half of play by each scoring 10 points and shooting a combined 64% from the field.
However, it wasn’t just the Knights’ offense that took off at the start of the game. UCF put on a defensive clinic, holding SMU to just 14 first-half points.
This came from a dismal 20% shooting from the field by the Mustangs, even going 0-7 from the three-point line. The Knights were also able to force SMU into eight turnovers, with four of them coming from steals.
As for the second half, the Knights started to cool down, letting the Mustangs score 44 to their 28 points.
Some clutch free throws by Mahan and shut down defense to stop the last shot from going in kept SMU from completing the comeback.
Despite the Knights struggling late in the game, UCF redshirt junior forward Collin Smith helped pull UCF to victory, dropping 15 second-half points along with seven rebounds.
Smith ended the night shooting 5-of-8 from the field-goal range, and sinking 9-of-11 shots from the free-throw line, contributing 19 points in the Knights’ victory.
With the win, the Knights improve to 15-14 overall and 6-11 in conference play, while the Mustangs fall to 19-10 overall and 9-8 in conference play.
The Knights look to close out the season strong and maintain an above .500 record, with a game against the East Carolina Pirates on Sunday at Addition Financial Arena.
The Knights, who previously defeated the Pirates 68-64 on the road in February, will also honor the graduating seniors on Sunday before the 2 p.m. game, which will be broadcast on ESPNU.