Jan. 24, 2017 at CFE Arena

Availability: HC Johnny Dawkins, C Tacko Fall

HC Johnny Dawkins

The University of Central Florida is ranked No. 1 in the nation in opposing field-goal percentage (0.345).

[SMU’s] a very good team, really efficient offensively. And we’re gonna have to make sure we do a great job of defending like we’ve done all year. That’s been a priority for us. That’s what we hang our hat on. And we have to make sure we come out with a big effort tomorrow.

The Knights lost to the Memphis Tigers 70-65 on Sunday.

We had a tough loss at Memphis. I thought we had our chances. Give them a lot of credit. I thought they executed at the end. We missed some free throws, turned it over a little too much, and we have to correct those things. For us to bounce back, we have to be better in those areas of execution offensively. We have to make sure we bring the defensive intensity.

Center Tacko Fall notched a double-double against Memphis, recording 15 points and 13 rebounds in the loss. It was his first double-double since his 20-point, 12-rebound double-double on Dec. 21, 2016 against Bethune-Cookman University.

I thought we did a really good job of finding him when he was in open in areas where he can be effective. I thought he did a very good job of really just keeping it simple around the basketball, getting really good low-post position, which was easier for us to deliver the ball to him for him to finish. And I thought he was really active on the boards. He created opportunities for himself with all offensive rebounds. He created opportunities for himself defensively.

When asked about what he believed was the next step in Fall’s progression as a player, Dawkins said it’s about his consistency.

Well, one is now starting to string some games together like he did here the other night where he started to find a level of consistency. That’s the next big step for him is if that production was good, he can have that production a lot of nights. But it’s a process to doing that. You have to learn how to do that every night against different defenses and different styles that teams are gonna throw at you. So, he’s figuring those things out, and he’s gonna be better from the experiences that he’s gained.

So far, the Knights are 10-1 at home at CFE Arena. Their lone loss comes at the hands of the University of Pennsylvania, a 58-49 decision.

It’s always great to get back here. CFE has been great to us. We looking forward to being back home in front of our fans, in front of our community, our student body. And we’re excited to compete in front of them. It’s been good, and our guys really want to represent the area well.

SMU is ranked No. 2 in the American Athletic Conference with a 7-1 conference record. UCF is ranked fifth with a 5-2 record.

We’re competing to finish at the top of our conference. It’s like all these other teams are. For us to do that, we have to keep pace. So this is an important game for us—keep building momentum and keep moving forward to try to be one of the best teams in our conference.

SMU’s Semi Ojeleye is scoring a team-high 17.7 points per game.

Semi is one of the best players in our conference. He’s very efficient offensively. He’s an unorthodox player. He’s very versatile. Lot of times, he’s playing the 5, but he’ll step out and shoot the three. So he’s a difficult cover. We have to make sure we’re aware of where he is at all times, both for shooting and also for offensive rebounds. He does a great job of crashing the boards. But it’s gonna take a team effort. It’s not gonna be one guy that really slows him down. We all need to be aware of where he is.

Two of the Knights’ five losses have come from conference play. The Knights lost to the UConn Huskies on Jan. 8 and lost to Memphis on Sunday.

It’s a great conference. It’s very competitive. And I don’t think any of the teams are gonna go through this conference undefeated. So you’re gonna have to battle every single night for your win. Every win that you have in this conference is an earned win. That’s what you’ve seen. We’ve realized that, and we have to go out and expect a great deal of competition every time we step on the floor.

While not ranked yet, SMU is only two spots out of the Associated Press Top 25, earning 33 points in the latest poll.

They’re one of the best and most efficient teams offensively in our league. They’re one of the best shooting teams in our league. Us guarding the three is gonna be very important for us. Us defending dribble-penetration and make sure they don’t get second and third shot attempts. I think they rebound 42 percent of their misses, which is the highest in our league. So, when they miss, they do a good job of going and getting the basketball. And then for us, we need to make sure we’re smart in what we do offensively. We need to come down and execute. We need the ball in the right people’s hands, and we need to make sure that we are are taking care of the mismatches that we’ll have.

Tacko Fall

Fall has posted eight double-doubles this year.

I would say, like, my teammates helped me a lot that game ‘cus…it was a big team effort. Even though we lost, I think the guys were involving people a lot. I was a lot more aggressive, too, on both ends.

After averaging only 7.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season, Fall is now averaging 13.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in the 2016-17 season.

[I’m working on] [j]ust being more explosive. I’ve gained a lot of confidence from last year, but there’s still a lot of steps I can take. Just being more comfortable. Using all the things that I’ve worked on all summer.

UCF has 11 conference games remaining in the regular season.

I would say as a whole team, we just kinda just keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing great defense, and that’s what’s gotten us this far. So we gotta keep it up ‘cus defense starts everything. Like, you just get people out of their game just playing good defense.

Fall is averaging a team-high 2.4 blocks per game. The next highest is Chad Brown‘s 0.6 blocks per game.

It’s gonna be very important tomorrow. If we get ourselves to stay very, very disciplined, it’s good to play defense. But, also, you gotta play it the right way. So, things like that, you gotta be very disciplined.

The Knights started the season with a 9-3 record against non-conference opponents.

Conference, people seen me play, already seen me play. When the year first start, they’re not gonna know much about you, but once conference start play, people know what people’s tendencies are, so they have a lot of scouting things. You can’t really stop everything. Like I said earlier, defense is all about effort, no matter how much you think you prepare for that. If you come in and lock in, play hard, everything is just gonna take care of itself.

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