Thursday’s Things To Know: UCF beats Alabama; Arizona, BC cruise

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It was a night college basketball surrendered to the NBA and NFL, with no top-25 teams in action across the dial. Still, that doesn’t mean nothing happened on the college basketball landscape. Here’s what went down, starting with the AAC frontrunner knocking of an SEC opponent and finishing with some big nights.

 

UCF GETS ITS FIRST BIG WIN

The one-point home loss to Florida Atlantic earlier this month may have been cause for concern, but UCF – our favorite to win the AAC – looks to have figured things out just fine. The Knights claimed their best win of this young season with a 70-64 win over Alabama in Orlando. It’s a victory, while not a Quadrant 1 W, that could resonate come March for Johnny Dawkins’ squad.

UCF beat Alabama, picked to finish in the middle-of-the-SEC-pack this season, with a formula that should help the Knights establish themselves as the best team in the AAC – they leaned on their best players. How novel. B.J. Taylor scored 24 points while Aubrey Dawkins powered his way to 16 points despite shooting 3 of 10 from the floor with a 10-of-10 mark from the free-throw line. Tacko Fall had 10 points and four blocks in 18 foul-shortened minutes. That trio, if healthy (and that’s been a big if), is going to be hard to top this winter in an AAC that is wide open.

For Avery Johnson’s Alabama, it’s certainly not a deflating loss, say like falling to Northeastern by 16, but it’s a reminder that the Tide are probably destined for mediocrity this winter. They threatened to make things interesting a few times Thursday, but mostly consistently outplayed. The 3-point shooting is going to weigh on the offense all year, and the 5 of 24 they put up against the Knights certainly isn’t going to get it done.

 

ARIZONA AND BOSTON COLLEGE WIN TUNE-UPS

Neither Arizona nor Boston College are expected to move the needle all that much this season, though both have some interesting wins. The Wildcats knocked off Iowa State in Maui while the Eagles claimed a home win against Minnesota earlier this month. Both have tests coming soon, but not before a quick dress rehearsal.

Arizona bounced back from losses to Gonzaga and Auburn over in Hawaii with a 100-70 thrashing of Georgia Southern in Tucson while BC beat Sacred Heart, 81-73. Chase Jeter had 18 points and 10 boards for the Wildcats, who were missing Ryan Luther due to injury. Wyonston Tabbs scored 28 for the Eagles.

Now, Arizona will set its sights on Storrs, where UConn and first-year coach Dan Hurley, whose brother Bobby you may have heard is at Wildcat rival Arizona State, will be waiting. BC, meanwhile, has Providence at home on Tuesday followed by a trip next weekend to College Station to face Texas A&M.

 

NOTABLE NIGHTS

Thursday might not have had any big games, but it had a few big performances.

First off was Belmont’s Dylan Windler. The 6-foot-8 senior from Indianapolis scored 31 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in the Bruins’ 99-93 overtime win over Samford. Over in Dallas, SMU’s Jimmy Whitt, Jr. posted a triple-double of 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 31 minutes. He added three steals for fun, too, as the Mustangs blasted McNeese State, 91-59. It took overtime, but Austin Peay’s Chris Porter-Bunton had 16 points and 15 boards in the Governors’ 79-75 win over Troy. Oh, and Loyola Marymount, they of the top-10 NET ranking, stayed perfect with a 106-50 win over Bethesda.