PirateIllustrated - ECU Falls to UCF 94-62 in Orlando
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ECU Falls to UCF 94-62 in Orlando

ECU started off well enough before cooling off in the last eight minutes of the first half and never recovered as Darin Green tossed in 23 points and UCF picked up a 94-62 win over the Pirates Sunday afternoon in Addition Financial Arena.

UCF has been a 31 percent three-point team but they made 15 treys in the game to just four for ECU who made just 22 percent of theirs. Add in 16 points off of 11 Pirate first half turnovers and that proved to be much the different in the contest.

Matt Milon had 16 points including four treys, Collin Smith added 12 points and Dazon Ingram added ten points and a team high eight rebounds to help lead the Knights in scoring.

Tristen Newton did his part for ECU with 20 points along with 17 from Jayden Gardner and 13 from J.J. Miles, but 54 percent UCF overall shooting including 51 percent from the arc for the Knights ultimately did the Pirates in.

“We didn’t close out tight enough and obviously they got off to a good start with a lot of energy and a lot of times when the ball goes in the basket it gives you a lot more energy and they kept shooting it,” said ECU head coach Joe Dooley, “Green is leading the league in three-point field goal percentage and Milan is a very good shooter and they got rolling.”

With the win, UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins improved to 7-0 vs ECU in his time as head coach in Orlando while Joe Dooley remains searching for answers against the Knights at 0-3 overall. After the game he reflected on what proved to be a bit of a curious East Carolina performance in Orlando.

“We never got stops. You’ve got to get three straight stops six or seven times in order to win the game,” Dooley said, “Then on offense we were very impatient. The ball didn’t move. If we didn’t turn it over, we shot 48 percent in the first half which is a doable number, but we did not do enough things to keep ourselves in the game.”

ECU’s inability to score points, particularly in the first half of games like the one on Sunday made it next to impossible to have much of a chance in the second half.

“This is not who we’ve been in the last two months. We were like this early in the season. In the last six weeks we’ve played hard and we’ve tried hard,” Dooley stated, “I don’t know what happened in these last two games but our energy level - I don’t know if we’ve hit a wall, but it was very, very disappointing today.”

“Tristen did some good things and I thought Charles did some good things, but we were out of sync and our lack of competitiveness really bothers me.”

Both teams initially got off to a good start in a 14-12 ballgame with Tristen Newton and J.J. Miles putting up five quick points for the Pirates and Darin Green launching in seven early points for UCF.

But despite five quick points from Jayden Gardner over the next few minutes, UCF scored five times including two treys from Darin Green, another from Frank Bertz and a dunk from Dazon Ingram that soon gave the Knights a 30-21 working margin with 6:21 to go in the half and they never looked back.

A pair of Collin Smith drives, the second of which resulted in a three-point play increased the UCF lead to 35-21 before a Tristen Newton midrange jumper finally broke a seven point Knight scoring run.

Green remained on fire for UCF with his third trey and 15th point of the half as the Knights’ lead expanded to twenty before taking a 47-29 lead at halftime. The Knights made 58.6 percent of their shots in the first twenty minutes to go along with 7 of 16 shooting from the arc. The Pirates were at 48 percent in the first half, but made just 2 of 7 from the arc and only got to the foul line for two shot attempts.

The seeds of defeat were sown in the first half and because things didn’t change much in the second half, the outcome was all but eventual.

The UCF lead was up 64-40 with 11:27 to play, 80-50 at the seven minute mark on a Matt Milon trey and 94-60 a treys from Ceasar DeJesus and seldom used Ryan Anders on a bomb from the corner with 1:29 to play.

UCF improved to 16-14 overall and 7-11 in league play while ECU fell to 11-20 and 5-13 in AAC play with the conference tournament set to begin on March 12 in Fort Worth, Texas.