ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - After Matt Williams missed UCF's first five games of the year while recovering from an illness, head coach Donnie Jones hoped to use Saturday's game against Florida Tech as an opportunity for the freshman to get a few minutes on the court. It is doubtful that Jones expected Williams to post an incredible individual performance in his collegiate debut, but the Orlando native did just that.
In only 13 minutes, the guard shot 7-of-9 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 21 points to help the Knights roll to a 90-62 victory.
Williams scored 18 points in the second half that saw UCF (4-2) dominate the Panthers. UCF led 38-29 at the break and then outscored Florida Tech 52-33 after intermission when it shot 63.0 percent overall and 76.9 percent (10-of-13) from deep.
Williams certainly supplied a spark for the Knights. His teammates, and the fans, erupted after each made 3-pointer. The rookie, who finished just one triple shy of a school single-game record, was humble and emotional after the game.
"It feels good to be back on the court playing with all I've been through," Williams said. "With the trials and tribulations that I've been through, it just feels good to be able to play again."
UCF was playing for the first time since Nov. 23 when it faced No. 7 Florida in Gainesville. The Knights came out energized at halftime and opened the second stanza with a 23-6 run.
"In the second half, we came out and played the way that we needed to play," Jones said. "I thought we controlled the tempo in the first five minutes."
Williams was one of five UCF players to finish with double digits in scoring. A pair of Knights - Kasey Wilson (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Keith Clanton (13 points, 11 rebounds) - recorded double-doubles. Daiquan Walker shot 5-of-6 from 3-point range on his way to 15 points and Isaiah Sykes added 10 points in the victory.
UCF limited Florida Tech to 34.7 percent shooting for the game. The Knights' bench accounted for a season-high 29 points.
After the contest with the Panthers, the Knights will take a long break for final exams. The team will return to action on Dec. 12 at home against Bethune-Cookman. The contest with the Wildcats will serve as the first game for another Knight, Calvin Newell. The junior guard sat out the last year after transferring from Oklahoma.
UCF fans can only hope that Newell's debut will be as memorable as Williams' contest against Florida Tech.
"I am happy for Matt Williams. He got in and hit a couple of shots and that took away all of the (nervousness) of being a freshman. I am just happy for him," Jones said.