ORLANDO – The UCF men's basketball team closed out its non-conference slate on a high note, extending its winning streak to five games after defeating visiting South Carolina State 89-64 Thursday night at CFE Arena.
"I'm just really proud of our guys' effort tonight," UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. "Especially considering we got down in the first half by nine. Our guys showed the character they've exhibited almost all season. They were able to stay poised, kept competing, and kept playing UCF basketball."
Guard Donte Wright led S.C. State with 19 points and 7 rebounds, while former Denmark-Olar High standout Ozante Fields added 10 points and 4 rebounds from his forward slot.
Early on it looked like UCF (9-3) was going to be in a battle with the Bulldogs. S.C. State (4-11) made five of its first seven three-point attempts and led 27-18 with 7:33 to play in the first half.
The Knights figured it out, getting stop after stop and scoring six straight points to cut into the Bulldogs' lead.
It was just under the five-minute mark that Dawkins' squad used an 11-0 run – highlighted by a Dayon Griffin three-pointer, back-to-back buckets from Tacko Fall (18 points), and a steal and ensuing layup by Chance McSpadden – to take a six-point lead just before halftime.
"Our guys, like they've done most of this year, they responded," Dawkins said of the spurt. "They went back out and they made the adjustments. Clearly our defense was a lot better from that point on and gave us a chance to win."
McSpadden led the way all night on the defensive end. He finished with three steals and frustrated nearly every Bulldog ball handler.
In the second half, it was the Knights' offense that really started to get going. In fact, UCF shot a staggering 65.4 percent in the second half to finish the night with a season high 59.3 percent shooting from the field.
A jumper in the paint by McSpadden ignited a 15-0 run midway through the frame that put UCF up 63-45, ultimately putting the game out of reach.
S.C. State returns to play on Monday, Jan. 3 in Daytona Beach, Fla., opening Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play against Bethune-Cookman.