AUBURN, AL — The No. 21 Auburn Tigers basketball team defeated the University of Central Florida Knights Wednesday evening inside Auburn Arena 85-68. After losing against the Knights a year ago on the road, the Tigers successfully defended their home floor. Auburn used a strong second half to pull away, outscoring the Knights by 14.
The Tigers had three players score in double figures, led by Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler with 20 and 17, respectively.
“Being a scorer is a role that I have sort of put on myself,” said Smith, the Tigers’ leading scorer. “Whether I have two points or 20 points, all I want to do is win so that’s my goal every night.”
For UCF, the Knights were led by guard Darius Perry with 18 points and six rebounds. The Knights struggled shooting the ball from the three-point line, with a staggering 17% from behind the arc.
UCF started the game with a tenacious full-court press, which caused three turnovers within the first six minutes of the game and resulted in six points for the Knights.
The Tigers responded by making big baskets throughout the first half, including multiple three-pointers from Smith and Lior Berman.
But the Knights continued to find ways to respond by forcing turnovers and cashing in from the free throw line, going seven of nine in the first half from the charity stripe.
The Tigers locked down defensively following the final media timeout, not allowing the Knights to make a field goal for the final four minutes of the first half, as Auburn led UCF 39-36 at the half.
“Our defense just wore them down to end the first half,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “Our guards responded well to the challenge in the second half and we responded defensively.”
Coming out of the locker room, the intensity on both sides was elevated, with 10 fouls being called in the first six minutes of the second half, five from boh teams.
Auburn used a 9-1 run coming out of the second media timeout of the second half to give themselves a nine point lead with 11:34 to go, its biggest lead of the night.
UCF continued to battle through most of the second half, but committing eight turnovers and allowing Auburn to score 11 points from those turnovers became the difference maker. The Tigers used turnovers and fast breaks to pull away from the Knights, and then they were able to slow the pace of play and run the half-court offense.
Auburn finished the game strong, defeating UCF 85-68. This was the Tigers fourth win by double digits this season.
For UCF, the Knights fall to 4-2 on the season. They travel back home for two straight home games.
For the Tigers, they improved their record to 6-1 on the season. They will host Yale on Saturday afternoon inside Auburn Arena.
For more Auburn Basketball coverage, visit AuburnTigers.com and weglfm.com.