PirateIllustrated - Jayden Gardner Gets 35 Points and 20 Boards but ECU Falls to UCF
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Jayden Gardner Gets 35 Points and 20 Boards but ECU Falls to UCF

Jayden Gardner scored a personal record 35 points and 20 rebounds in ECU's 76-65 loss to UCF. (ECU Photo)
Jayden Gardner scored a personal record 35 points and 20 rebounds in ECU's 76-65 loss to UCF. (ECU Photo)

UCF jumped out to a quick early lead and then held off a feisty ECU ball club down the stretch to pick up a 76-65 AAC victory Sunday afternoon in CFE Arena.

Jayden Gardner led all scorers with personal bests in two categories with 35 points to go along with 20 rebounds in 38 minutes of play. But besides twelve points from Shawn Williams, ECU didn’t have anyone else to score more than four points in their third league loss of the season against just one victory.

“He gave a great effort and I thought a lot of guys did. Tyler Foster’s numbers weren’t great, but I thought he did a lot of great things. I thought as a team for the most part we tried to do some things,” ECU head coach Joe Dooley stated after the game, “You know we’re on the road and gave up 41 free throws and 16 offensive rebounds and that’s a hard obstacle to overcome.”

Gardner joined former Memphis player Dedric Lawson as the only freshmen in AAC history to score 35 points in a game. He is also he first freshman in conference history to grab 20 rebounds in a game and the fifth player in conference history to have three 30-point games in a season.

He is the second player in school history to have three double-doubles with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds .

Aubrey Dawkins scored 18 points to lead four Knights in double-figures to go along with 14 from B.J. Taylor, 12 from Collin Smith and 10 points from Taco Fall.

With the win, UCF improved to 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in the AAC while the Pirates dipped to 8-8 and 1-3 in league play

The game was played largely at the foul line where 65 free throws were shot including 31 fouls on ECU and 19 on UCF. The Pirates hit just 14 of 24 while the Knights hit just 22 of 41.

“i thought the real problem that got us was the start of the second half where we missed five of our six free throws. We’re down and we have a manageable number and you’re looking to get some momentum and we sort of took the momentum away from ourselves by missing free throws,” Dooley said.

“We didn’t do ourselves any favors from the free throw line or the three point line. I do give our guys a lot of credit when it looked like we were in trouble and it looked like they were going to bury us,” said Dooley, “We fought back and we were down six with the ball. I thought the guys showed some character there. I thought the guys didn’t stop playing.”

UCF got off to a fast start. Three dunks from 7-foot-six Taco Fall, two Chad Brown scores at the rim and a fast break three-point play from Aubrey Dawkins helped key an early 18-4 UCF run to begin the game. The Pirates went just one for twelve in the first seven minutes of the game while UCF got 18 of their first twenty points in the paint.

Two Collin Smith corner bombs expanded the Knight's lead to 26-12 midway into the first half. Smith’s fourth basket of the half and four Isaac Fleming turnovers for ECU led to a 37-19 Knight lead with 4:27 to go before halftime despite 14 Jayden Gardner points for the Pirates.

Shawn Williams’ one hundredth career three-point jumper and Jayden Gardner’s game leading seventeenth point of the half cut the UCF lead to twelve at 38-26 at intermission. But nine first half turnovers and sub-36 percent shooting made life easier for the Knights that got ten first half points from Colin Smith and nine from Taco Fall.

Williams got to the one hundred mark in just 41 games which is the third fastest in ECU history. Former ECU guard Akeem Richmond needed just 33 games to reach the century mark for threes while James Legan took only 37 games.

Despite hitting just 23 percent from the arc, UCF went into the locker room hitting 48.3 percent overall while only fouling five times to eleven. Seth LeDay, Isaac Fleming and K.J. Davis were held scoreless in the first half for the Pirates.

ECU missed five of six free throws while UCF got early baskets from Colin Smith and four made shots from Aubrey Dawkins. The Knight lead grew to their largest lead of the game at 50-29 with 15:33 to play.

UCF then went cold for nearly six minutes. Two Jayden Gardner free throws, an Isaac Fleming layup and a pair of Shawn Williams’ three-point bombs and a Gardner outside shot cut the lead to eleven at 54-43 with eleven minutes to play.

Three more Gardner buckets kept ECU close at 63-52 before a Shawn Williams running jumper in the paint for a three-point play and a Seth LeDay free throw cut the lead to seven with 5:40 to go. Then Gardner’s three point play in the paint with 3:28 to play sliced the UCF lead to six.

But UCF baskets from Terrell Allen, a free throw from Taco Fall and a pair of ECU misses down the stretch kept the Pirates at bay as the Knights held on to take the win.

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