Taylor-Made Victory Helps UCF Advance, 81-64

UCF gave a colonial-style beating to their visitors from the Ivy League as they pulled away in the second half to beat the Penn Quakers, 81-64. The Knights were once again led by Jermaine Taylor, who matched his career high with 34 points while playing just 26 minutes.

"It would've been nice to stay in and get that (career high) but we have a game tomorrow and it's really not about points," Taylor said. "He's the coach and he makes the call."

The Knights were in a donnybrook early on with the visiting Penn Quakers as the teams went back and forth in the opening minutes. UCF was finally able to achieve some breathing room seven minutes remaining in the first half as the Knights went on a 10-2 run to take a 27-19 advantage after the game was deadlocked at 17.

"We challenged our guys at the beginning of the game and we didn't take care of some details early," Knights head coach Kirk Speraw said.

The Quakers answered the Knights run with a 9-0 run of their own to take back the lead at 28-27. The teams traded baskets over the next few minutes before UCF closed on a 6-2 run to take a 35-32 lead into the break. Jermaine Taylor struggled in the first half against the Quakers pressure defense, but still led the team with 16 points on 7-12 shooting. Penn's leading scorer was Tyler Bernardini who scored 12 points on 3-8 shooting.

"We were making a lot of careless mistakes, mishandling the ball, and coach (Speraw) came in and told us that if we wanted to win the game, we couldn't have that in the second half," Taylor said.

Penn was able to hang with the Knights largely due to UCF's lack of outside shooting proficiency, as they hit on just one of six three-point attempts. The Knights shot 46.4% from the field (13-28), and hit eight of their ten free throw attempts. Penn shot a lowly 34.8% from the field (8-23), hit on 3 of 11 shots from behind the arc (27.3%), but hit 13 of 17 free throws to keep the game close. There were five lead changes in the first half and the game was tied eight times.

The Knights opened up the second half with a 15-5 run in the first five minutes to extend their lead to 13 points, as Jermaine Taylor began to take over the game. Taylor scored a few baskets on some inside put-backs and then buried a three.

Penn (1-6) made another run at the Knights and cut the lead to six before freshman guard Issac Sosa hit a pair of three-point shots to put UCF up 58-46. After Penn went on a 5-0 run, Jermaine Taylor answered with eight points of his own to give the Knights their biggest advantage at 66-51.

UCF (7-4) would cruise from there as they simply pounded the less athletic Ivy League team in the second half. The Knights shot 60.7 % in the second half and hit on 7 of 12 threes after intermission en route to outscoring the Quakers, 46-32.

"We did come out in the second half and we built a lead and we never let it come back," Speraw said. "That was critical."

UCF will now take on Chicago State in the championship game of the UCF Holiday Classic Tuesday night at 7:00. The Knights will be going for their third consecutive title in their own event.

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