Knights hold off USC Upstate to remain undefeated


Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

B.J. Taylor had 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Knights against USC Upstate.

The UCF Knights used sound second-half defense to help them pick up the 76-69 win over the USC Upstate Spartans on Sunday night in front of an announced crowd of 3,413 at CFE Arena. Knights guard B.J. Taylor had 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the game to help lead the Knights to their third win of the season.

UCF jumped on the Spartans early in the second half to take a 43-37 lead fueled by back-to-back three-pointers and a steal by Taylor. The team’s defense stepped up down the stretch of the game to help hold off the Spartans’ charge.

“The way we defended the last 12 minutes of the game was the difference,” Knights head coach Donnie Jones said. “We didn’t give up one three-point shot and we only put them to the line six times and [gave up] zero offensive rebounds in the second half. We won with defense and we made some shots against that zone.”

The Knights took their largest lead of the game at 70-63 with just over two minutes left in the game. The Spartans cut the Knights’ late-game lead down to three points but Taylor’s sixth three-pointer of the game ensured the Knights of the win.

“Our team does a great job moving the ball; we just try to get whoever has the hot hand the open shot,” Taylor said. “Tonight I had the hot hand, last game [Adonys Henriquez] had the hot hand. We have a lot of guys on this team that can shoot so we just try to move the ball more than anything.”

The Spartans led by as many as nine points in the first half before the Knights cut the Spartans’ lead to two points at halftime. Spartans guard Ty Greene led all scorers with 10 points at the intermission and would finish the game with 14 points.

“They came out with the tougher edge than we did and that was the difference in the first half,” said Jones. “We turned it over and they got 10 points in transition and they got 10 points on second chance so that’s 20 points in the first half of their 37 were on effort and I think that’s what we had to change in the second half.”

The Knights’ defense held the Spartans to 39 percent shooting in the second half and only three made three-point field goals. The defense was led by forward Staphon Blair who had 11 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots.

“Steph is a beast. A lot of times we can rely on Steph if we get beat off of the dribble or something we know Steph is going to be there,” said Blair’s teammate, Kasey Wilson. “He is so big and athletic and has great timing and it’s showing – he gets at least two blocks a game.”

The Knights now turn their attention to Wednesday’s game against Davidson at home. Tip off for that game is at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3.