Georgia Southern came into CFE Arena on Tuesday night and made a game out the evening, but UCF sent them back to Georgia with a loss as they edged them 61-59.
"We continue to find ways to grow up through winning, which is important," head coach Donnie Jones said. "This team's finding ways to win in close games."
Freshman Adonys Henriquez dropped a few big three-pointers and capped the night with 11 points, four assists and three rebounds in 40 minutes of play. Sophomore Justin McBride finished 6-for-7 from the field for a team-leading 14 points as well as seven rebounds. Senior Myles Davis came off the bench to give UCF a spark as he knocked down two three-pointers in route to eight points, two assists and two boards in 15 minutes of action.
"We all came together and we won as a team today," Davis said. "I'm real proud of everybody."
Henriquez's first three-pointer opened the floodgates and his second would knot the game at 11 apiece. It was the second of eight times the score would be knotted up in the first half.
Sophomore Brandon Goodwin broke a tie at 18 apiece with a half-court pass from senior Kasey Wilson that resulted in a drive to the bucket that ended in a layup.
Upon McBride's entry into the game at 13:52 in the first half, the crowd erupted with a "feed McBride" chant. Fresh off of a career night of 31 points, he would break a 20-20 tie with a rebound that resulted in a bucket for the big man.
"It was electric," McBride said. "[The students] give us life … we just feed off of them."
Junior Daiquan Walker dropped a shot from beyond the arc a few minutes later to put the Knights ahead 25-24. UCF would embark on an 8-3 run with that three pointer before Georgia Southern tied the game again, sending the teams into the locker room with 30 points each.
The second half picked up where the first one left off as neither team went ahead by more than four points in the opening 11 minutes, until an alley-oop by Shaheed Davis on a feed from Henriquez and a dunk by McBride put the Knights in front, 50-45.
The players appreciated the fans' energy throughout the night, but Jones inferred it was the noise they made after the alley-oop that really set the Knights off down the stretch.
"We need them out here to support these guys. They feed off that energy," Jones said. "We need our students."
Georgia Southern was quick to close the gap, though, as they made two quick baskets to cut UCF's lead to one. The scoring gap would not be greater than four for the remainder of the game.
With 29 seconds remaining on the clock and the score tied at 59, Goodwin pulled a crossover before he put up a step-back jumper from beyond the arc which was rebounded for the eventual game winning bucket by Wilson.
UCF will embark on its first road trip of the season as they travel to Tallahassee to take on FSU at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
"We're going to enjoy this until 12:01 [a.m.] and then we'll start focusing on Florida State," Jones said.