LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Central Florida rode a strong first half to remain undefeated.
Ceasar DeJesus scored 15 points, 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Central Florida downed Nebraska 68-59 in a first-round game Thursday at the Advocare Invitational.
UCF (4-0) is off to its best start since 2010-11
James Palmer Jr. had 20 of his 22 points in the second half for Nebraska (3-2).
Palmer’s strong second half helped Nebraska, which trailed by 18 early on, get within 53-47 with 3:15 to play but the Cornhuskers could get no closer than six the rest of the way.
“I thought we handled it pretty well,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We were pretty much able to maintain that seven- to 11-point lead. They switched defenses and that kind of slowed us down. We had to make adjustments.”
UCF converted 14 of 25 free throws, while Nebraska went 11 for 13.
“We couldn’t get to the line and we couldn’t get to the rim, and obviously that’s their MO,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “Tacko does an excellent job of being an air traffic control guy and just seeing everything in front of him and seeing when to go.”
DeJesus scored 10 and Fall had nine, including a slam that came off a nifty move into the paint, as UCF went ahead 36-20 at the half.
Fall departed with 4½ minutes left after landing awkwardly on his right knee after trying to block a shot. He was able to return in the final minute before intermission.
“I’m okay,” Fall said. “Just have to fight through it.”
Fall got his lone second-half basket with 1:15 remaining, a slam that made it 60-51
The Knights held a 26-6 scoring advantage in the paint during the opening 20 minutes over Nebraska, which shot 25 percent (7 for 28). UCF’s margin in the paint for the game wound up 36-20.
LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY
Nebraska forward Isaac Copeland, who broke out of an early-season slump with 30 points in Sunday’s 92-70 win over North Dakota, had eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. The junior forward missed a good portion of offseason work following back surgery last winter.
UCF forward A.J. Davis had eight points and 10 rebounds, and came up just short in a bid for a third consecutive double-double.
UCF: Fall is one of the 40 tallest living persons in the world and the tallest player in NCAA Division I. His shoe size is 22 and has a wingspan of 8 feet, 4 inches.
Nebraska: Both losses have come against teams in the Advocare Invitational. The Cornhuskers lost to semifinalist St. John’s 79-56 on Nov. 6.
UCF: Will play in the semifinals Friday night.
Nebraska: Enters consolation-round play Friday night.