East Carolina was down by 14 points early in the second half and cut the lead to one before running out of gas and UCF picked up a 66-52 win in the first round of the AAC Tournament Thursday night in the Amway Center. The Knights will advance to play Houston Friday night at 9:30 in next round of the tournament.
B.J. Taylor tossed in 17 and A.J. Davis added 14 to lead the Knights in scoring while Ceasar DeJesus and Dayon Griffin added nine more for UCF who improved their record to 19-12 on the season.
AAC rookie of the year Shawn Williams scored 17 for ECU and senior guard B.J. Tyson had 14 points in his final game as a Pirate. K.J. Davis and Jabari Craig contributed with seven points each.
"BJ shows up every day and gives you a hundred percent effort and as a coach there's nothing more you value more than that. His leadership is going to have an impression on so many of our young guys and in particular Shawn Williams, who he really started to take under his wing," said interim ECU coach Michael Perry.
ECU did hit just under 43 percent from the arc going six of fourteen. UCF went 8 of 18 from three-point land for 44.4 percent.
The Pirates played short handed personnel wise and committed 20 turnovers, 25 fouls in the contest and hit just 39 percent from the floor in the first round loss.
“We’re just undermanned and we don’t have a lot of options to turn to. I think fatigue does set in particularly in taking care of the basketball and playing through some physicality,” Perry said.
“In the last seven minutes we probably had eight or nine turnovers and I can’t help but think that fatigue had a factor in that. It’s been a struggle for us during the year. We’ve been better with our turnovers but I think fatigue finally catches up with you. We find it happening later in halves and that’s a very deciding time of the game to have those turnovers,” said Perry.
“You can’t give them more opportunities to score than you have and that’s exactly what happened.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
Five A.J. Davis points and eight more from B.J. Taylor had UCF up by six at the midway point in the first half. Two minutes later, Chad Brown and Dayon Griffin added to the Knight’s first half offensive prowess as the lead grew to 21-9.
ECU missed seven of eight shots over a seven minute span to go along with seven first half turnovers. The Knights went on an 11-2 scoring spree before a Jabari Craig tap in finally halted the run for the Pirates.
UCF hit seven for ten from long range in the first twenty minutes. Treys from Djordjije Mumin and Ceasar DeJesus increased the Knight lead to twelve with three minutes to go before intermission.
B.J. Tyson and Shawn Williams connected offensively for ECU to briefly trim the lead to eight before DeJesus nailed his second three-pointer of the half to give UCF a 36-25 lead at halftime. Taylor and Williams both scored ten points apiece to lead their respective teams in scoring at the break. ECU had just two assists in the first half against a stifling Knight defensive trap.
The Pirates put together a second half rally when Shawn Williams nailed a midrange jumper and then hit three free throws on the next possession to cut the UCF lead to nine. Then a K.J. Davis three-pointer and a Tyson runner in the lane trimmed the Knight lead to four with 10:32 to go. Tyson added a three pointer from the corner and suddenly the Pirates were back within one at 46-45 at the 9:08 mark.
But a wide open missed three-point attempt from Tyson, an errant drive and subsequent turnover from Shawn Williams led to UCF stretching the lead back to seven with just under seven minutes to play.
Two A.J. Davis baskets then pushed the UCF lead to eleven at 56-45. Two more Taylor buckets and an A.J Davis drive made it 64-46 with 2:44 remaining and UCF held on the rest of the way for the victory.