ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Isaiah Sykes scored 24 points and Daiquan Walker contributed 20, all in the second half, as Central Florida coasted past Houston 104-83 Friday night.
Matt Williams added 12 points and Staphon Blair 11 points and five blocks for the Knights (12-17, 4-14 American Athletic Conference), who won for only the second time in their last six games.
Jherrod Stiggers led Houston (16-15, 8-10) with 22 points and Danuel House added 18. L.J. Rose finished with 16 points and 10 assists for the Cougars, who lost for the first time in five games.
UCF led 50-32 at halftime and was never seriously challenged the rest of the way. Houston cut the deficit to 14 on three occasions in the middle of the second half, but each time, UCF answered with a 3-pointe, one from Williams and two from Walker, to stop any serious rallies before they started.
“We played inspired, we played focused and we never let up the whole game,” UCF Coach Donnie Jones said. “I remember asking my assistants when was the last time we led a game by 15 (actually 18) at halftime and whether we could play with that kind of lead, but we kept attacking and did a great job in the second half.”
Houston, which was lethargic throughout the first half, came alive in the final 20 minutes, but still couldn’t keep up with the Knights.
“We were flat in the first half and there was really no excuse for the way we played defense the whole game,” Houston Coach James Dickey said. “Give UCF credit. They jumped on us early and just kept coming. Anytime we got some momentum, that (Daiquan) Walker would hit a big shot and that was it for us.”
Walker, who missed the only shot he took in the first half, hit a 3-pointer after Houston cut the deficit to 66-52 on a driving layup by House with 10:48 left in the game. The UCF reserve guard followed that with a traditional 3-point play and the Knights lead was back to a comfortable72-52.
“I knew it was going to be my night when I just stroked that 3-pointer without even looking,” Walker said. “It was just muscle memory and let it go.”
The Knights nearly ran Houston off the court in the first half, jumping out to a 25-point lead in the first 13 minutes before settling for a 50-32 halftime lead.
Sykes had 16 points and, for one of the few times this season, got plenty of support. Calvin Newell had eight points and Tristan Spurlock and Justin McBride six apiece as UCF had its best offensive half against a Division I opponent all season.
“That was our best game start-to-finish all season,” Sykes said. “The whole team contributed in some way. We started out good and then our reserves came in and kept it going. It was a phenomenal game.”
The Knights shot 54.3 percent, had six 3-pointers, went 6-for-6 from the free throw line and turned eight offensive rebounds into 10 second-chance points.
The Knights started the game with a 20-4 burst, pounding Houston inside and out. A 3-pointer from Spurlock gave UCF a 36-11 lead with 7:04 left in the half, fueled in part by a 20-7 rebound advantage.
The Cougars had six turnovers and one assist the first 11 minutes, during which they scored only one field goal and six points.
Houston finally got untracked late in the half. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Stiggers in the final 1:15 helped the Cougars get the deficit under 20 before halftime, but it was way too little to change the outcome.
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