It was a close game down the stretch at the CFE arena on Sunday night, but UCF managed to extend its winning streak in season openers to 12 consecutive years. The Knights held on to defeat the Stetson Hatters, 64-55.
Neither UCF nor Stetson managed to eclipse 35 percent shooting, but head coach Donnie Jones was pleased to pull out the victory regardless.
"The best words [are] 1-0," Jones said. "There's no ugly wins."
UCF put up 20 of its 64 points from the free throw line, including five clutch baskets on three Stetson fouls in the final minute of the game. Jones knows that free throws are going to be an extremely important factor in close games and he is not taking them lightly.
"We shot a lot of free throws over the last week," Jones said. "I think it's important that you have the right guys at the free throw line."
Junior Staphon Blair knocked down three of the five free throws in the final minutes of the game to round out his 11 points.
Orlando natives, and freshmen, Adonys Henriquez and B.J. Taylor each stepped up to help lead the young Knights to victory.
Taylor had 14 points and nine rebounds. He knocked down a pair of free throws with 3:54 remaining in the game which gave the Knights the lead they never lost.
"He made some big plays. Made some big free throws," Jones said about Taylor. "He's not your typical freshman. He's pretty tough and poised, especially down the stretch."
Henriquez put up 11 points. He even faced a former high school teammate, now Stetson player, on the court.
"When you have a rivalry, against pretty much your brother, you just have to go out there and play," Henriquez said. "It was exciting."
The Hatters led the Knights six different times throughout the game, but only managed to hold the lead for 4:23 of the game. When Stetson wasn't holding the lead they managed to keep the game close, only trailing by a few points.
"You've got to give Stetson a lot of credit," freshman B.J. Taylor said. "They played really hard. They were really aggressive."
Junior Shaheed Davis recorded another double-double with UCF, with his first coming in an exhibition game against Flagler, finishing with 11 points and 13 rebounds
"Shaheed needed an opportunity to play," head coach Donnie Jones said. "He brings so much to us."
The Knights add their first official mark in the win column for this season as they prepare for their next opponent, Eckerd College, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20 at the CFE Arena.