TAMPA ― UCF’s current stretch of football and hoops sovereignty over USF can’t be vanquished in one afternoon, but the Bulls men managed to finally put a dent in that dominance Saturday.
Before the largest Yuengling Center audience of the season (6,254), the Bulls (10-12, 3-6 American Athletic Conference) snapped a nine-game skid to the Knights, leaning on their defensive grit and an ensemble rebounding effort for a 64-48 triumph.
“There are mile markers," Bulls third-year coach Brian Gregory said. “And this is a big one for us.”
Considering UCF’s recent ownership of this rivalry, the Bulls and their beleaguered fan base were famished for Saturday’s morsel of momentum. UCF entered having won the last 15 combined meetings against USF in football (three-game streak), men’s hoops (nine games) and women’s basketball (three).
The Bulls hadn’t defeated the Knights in men’s hoops since March 4, 2015, Orlando Antigua’s first season as USF coach.
“To get the win at home against your rival, to break the streak…in front of all those people that were really supporting and behind us, is great for the program," Gregory added.
“This could be one of those where you look two or three years down the road and you say, ‘Hey, that was a big turning point in building the program that you have today.’”
Playing without 7-foot sophomore Michael Durr (bruised knee), the Bulls still out-rebounded UCF, 36-31, held the Knights to a season-worst 9.1-percent effort (2-for-22) from 3-point range, and limited them to a season-low 18 field goals.
A 30-6 run in the first half, sparked in part by junior Justin Brown’s two 3-pointers, gave the hosts a 36-16 lead. But perhaps the game’s most telling sequence occurred at the outset of the second half.
Leading 38-22 at intermission, the Bulls went the first 8:44 of the second without a field goal, but their lead never fell below 10 points. Brown, who has come off the bench the last two games, ended the drought with a 3-pointer to give USF a 43-30 lead.
“We were trying to chip away, but you give them credit,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Even though they weren’t making shots, they were defending very hard, they were still rebounding very well on both ends of the floor, so we couldn’t get anything easy.”
Brown and senior point guard Laquincy Rideau led the Bulls with 14 points each. Brown also added eight rebounds and hit all five of his free throws for USF, which finished 24-for-30 (80 percent) from the stripe.
“This is a huge win, man," said Rideau, who added six steals and four assists. “Even though I’m 1-4 (actually 1-3) against UCF, that last win is always gonna be what I remember.”