TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Central Florida was the first team to have an answer for Alabama star freshman Collin Sexton in its 65-62 upset victory Sunday over the No. 24 Crimson Tide. It came from an effort to keep the Southeastern Conference scoring leader out of the paint.
“A lot of times when our guards would drive to the basket they made a major concerted effort to step up and try to slow down Dazon (Ingram) and Collin (Sexton) in those situations,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said.
Sexton scored just seven points, making seven of eight free throws, while missing all four of his shots from the field. It was his lowest total of the season.
“I think we did a good job of containing (Sexton),” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Guys were being aware of where he was all the time on the floor. If anything, I would like thank AJ Davis, our senior. He had the assignment, and he did a good job of really being focused all night long and guarding him.”
It was Davis who also made the go-ahead free throw with 25 seconds remaining, then Terrell Allen stole the following Alabama possession and fired the ball to teammate Dayon Griffin for an easy layup that sealed UCF’s upset win.
Allen had 16 points and eight assists, Djordjije Mumin scored 11 points, and Griffin added 10 points and six rebounds. The Knights were extremely efficient from the outside on offense, shooting a red-hot 60 percent from the field in the second half, and finishing 7-15 behind the arc.
“We’ve been working on offensive execution a lot lately,” Dawkins said. “That’s something that we thought we could improve, and our guys really stepped up today. I thought they played with a lot of poise. Alabama is long and athletic.”
UCF (5-3) made five 3-point shots on 10 attempts in the first half to keep it a six-point game heading into the final 20 minutes. They never slowed down. UCF kept up the pace in the second half by scoring 35 points, all while finding more success in the paint.
“I’m really proud of our guys that we were able to get behind the way we did in the first half,” Dawkins said. “I think we were down by about 11, and really just kept competing, and it gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Mumin was the Knight’s most efficient player from behind the arc, making 3 of 4 3-point attempts, and Dayon Griffin added two more 3-point baskets. UCF finished shooting 47 percent from distance.
“Most of the (3-point shots) were blown coverages,” Alabama senior Riley Norris said. “The first half I know they made five. (Allen) and (Mumin), give them credit, they hit the open shot.”
Alabama (6-2) was successful on the inside for most of the first 20 minutes, but fell behind in rebounding during the second half. The Crimson Tide scored 34 points in the paint, but lost the rebounding battle 37-28.
Alabama forced 20 turnovers on defense, and converted them into 18 points. Leading the way for the Crimson Tide was junior Donta Hall, who had 20 points and four blocks.
Alabama: Missed its chance to get to 7-1 for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The loss to UCF is the Crimson Tide’s first loss to an unranked opponent this season.
UCF: Ended a three-game skid, while defeating its second power-five opponent on the season and splitting its two games against the SEC. The win is the Knights’ first against a ranked team.
No. 24 Alabama should drop out of the Top 25 after losing to an unranked team. However, No. 22 Texas Tech and No. 17 Louisville also suffered losses to unranked teams this week.
UCF shot-blocker Tacko Fall, a 7-foot-6-inch junior, went to the bench with his second foul at just over the 14-minute mark of the first half. He didn’t have a statistic in the first 20 minutes, but finished the game with six points and one rebound. Fall fouled-out with 53 seconds remaining.
“When (Fall) is on the floor its always a positive thing for us,” Dawkins said. “I thought when he was off the floor some guys gave us some really good minutes.”
Alabama concludes its three-game homestand Wednesday night against Rhode Island.
UCF hosts the Southern University Jaguars on Saturday.