No. 25 UCF seeks another upset vs. No. 20 Cincinnati
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Fresh off its monumental victory against league-leading Houston, No. 25 UCF sets its sights on second-in-command in the American Athletic Conference, No. 20 Cincinnati.
Tipoff is Thursday night in Orlando.
On the strength of their upset in Houston on Saturday, the Knights find themselves in the Top 25 poll for the first time in eight years. That 2010-11 team won its first 14 games of the season, peaking at No. 19 in early January before hitting the skids with an eight-game losing streak.
Not these Knights (22-6), who are in third place with a 12-4 conference mark. UCF has a three-game winning streak after defeating the Cougars, who had the longest active home winning streak in the country snapped by the Knights. UCF has won six of its past seven.
The Bearcats (25-4, 14-2), meanwhile, are tied atop the AAC with No. 12 Houston, who they'll host to close out the season on Sunday. Victories over UCF and the Cougars would secure a second consecutive regular-season AAC title for Cincinnati.
The Bearcats are riding a five-game winning streak and have won 13 of their past 14.
A victory over Cincinnati would mark the first time in program history that UCF has defeated two ranked opponents in a single season. To get there, the Knights seek to avenge a hard-fought, 65-60 road loss to the Bearcats exactly two weeks ago.
In the first meeting on Feb. 21, Cincy rallied from an eight-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Knights, despite getting just two points from leading scorer Jarron Cumberland in the second half. UCF held Cumberland, third in the AAC at 18.6 points per game, to 11 for the game.
Instead, it was senior point guard Justin Jenifer who secured the win for the Bearcats, scoring seven of his 12 points in the final 3:12.
"They've been in those moments a few more times than we have, and they made the plays down the stretch," UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said after the loss. "They showed why they've been one of the best teams in our conference."
UCF's leading scorer, B.J. Taylor, was also held in check, scoring just 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Taylor enters this game ninth in the AAC in scoring at 16.3 points per game.
Junior guard Aubrey Dawkins' 18 points -- including four 3-pointers -- had UCF in a position to upend the Bearcats on the road.
"Now you see why they were picked to win our league," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said after the game. "That being said, our kids refused to give up. There were a lot of times we could have packed it in."
Both teams feature tough defenses, portending a low-scoring affair. Entering Wednesday, Cincinnati was ninth in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 61.3 points per game. UCF was 24th, allowing 64.0 per game.
The Bearcats have to contend with UCF 7-foot-6 senior center Tacko Fall, who was named the AAC Player of the Week, culminating a big week with a 13-point, 10-rebound performance at Houston. Fall had five blocks in the first meeting with Cincinnati.
The Bearcats lead the series 11-1 over UCF, with the Knights' only victory coming two years ago, in February of 2017, in Orlando.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 7, 2019