In a hard-fought game, the UCF Knights defeated Mercer by the final score of 88-79 after a slow start in the first half.
The Knights showed a new identity on both sides of the floor, going at a faster pace on the offensive side of the ball while being more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball by guarding 94 feet instead of half-court defense last season.
“I like the tempo, we wanted to play more faster this year, we have more depth and I think that showed,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said.
One of things that the Knights did in this game that was very noticeable was that they were attacking the rim. They scored 20 points in the paint in the first half, 44 for the game and outscored Mercer in that category by 24.
“We like to play inside-out, you know we like to work inside and then work our way out,” AJ Davis said. “If we have our open shots, we’ll take them but, I think the higher percentage shots we can get, that’s going to be better for us on the offensive end especially with guys that can finish around the basket.”
One player that was showing an ability to attack the basket, Ceasar DeJesus. He was relentless at getting to the rim. It didn’t matter how many guys were around the basket, he was attacking with no regard for human life and barely showed any nerves in his first game as a Knight.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was but, it definitely felt good to be out there.” DeJesus said.
DeJesus finished the game with tied for a team high 16 points, on 6-9 from the floor, one assist and three steals in the game as well.
Defensively, the Knights had a hard time defending the three-point line throughout the game. Because of this,they gave up 47 points in the first half, 79 for the game and you can tell that coach Dawkins was not happy about that.
“We have to get better defensively from a standpoint,” Dawkins said. “Our first side defense, it wasn’t strong enough. We weren’t where we needed to be. Start of defensive possessions, I thought some guys wondered out of their spots. We have to be more disciplined.”
However, the second half was a different story as they got off to a great start on both ends of the floor. Going on a 20-4 run in the first 12 minutes. Defense was key as Chad Brown had the paint on lockdown, with three blocks in a span of two minutes.
“You can’t walk into a room with Chad [Brown] and not get excited,” Dawkins said. “Chad has the best energy of any person. If you ever spend time with him, you know what I mean. He’s just a great personality and it’s infectious. Having him on the team, it does, it gives us a lift.”
Right before the tip, it was announced that Tacko Fall would not play in the game. After the game, coach Dawkins mentioned that it was a hip injury that Fall has been dealing with but, it isn’t anything serious and that he should be back soon.
Also during the game, star player BJ Taylor suffered what looked to be a foot injury. Dawkins mentioned after the game that Taylor will be looked at by Doctors to determine the severity of the injury and determine how much time if any he will have to miss.
Overall, a great start for the Knights against a very good team in Mercer who is favored to win the Southern Conference.
With the win, the Knights are 1-0 on the season and will get ready to host Gardner-Webb on Wednesday, Nov. 15th at the CFE arena with tip off at 7:00 p.m.