ORLANDO, Fla. -- Guard Joe Jackson scored 17 points and guards Chris Crawford and Michael Dixon added 12 each to help Memphis defeat Central Florida 69-59 on Wednesday night.
Guard Geron Johnson added 10 points for the Tigers (16-4, 6-2), who methodically pulled away from UCF in the final 10 minutes of the game.
The Tigers had to overcome a huge performance from UCF guard Isaiah Sykes, who scored 24 points, had 12 rebounds and handed out five assists in a one-man show that kept the Knights close most of the night. Guard Matt Williams was the only other UCF player in double figures, scoring 13 points.
Memphis won the game with defense in the second half, limiting the Knights to just 29 percent shooting. After UCF pulled within two at 56-54 on a follow-shot dunk by forward Tristan Spurlock with 8:53 left in the game, Jackson took over to carry the Tigers down the stretch.
Jackson worked the shot-clock into single digits and either forced fouls or got inside for layup against an over-matched UCF defense.
After a blistering first half that ended in a 39-all tie, the pace slowed considerably in the second half.
Memphis was just 5 of 17 the first 10 minutes of the second half, but it was good enough to take a 56-52 lead after a three-point play by Dixon. The Tigers' defense took away the perimeter from UCF, but still couldn't keep the Knights away from the basket.
UCF got layups or putbacks on six of its first seven baskets of the half. A dunk by Spurlock pulled the Knights within 56-54 with 8:53 left in the game.
The first half was a track meet with Memphis riding its jump shooters and UCF taking advantage of second-chance opportunities against a porous zone defense.
Memphis shot 62.5 percent (15 of 24), including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers. The Tigers got 10 points and four assists from Jackson and six points apiece from forwards David Pellom and Austin Nichols, but didn't take care of the defensive boards and it cost them.
UCF got second-chance putbacks on four of its seven offensive rebounds to stay right with Memphis. Sykes had three of the putbacks on his way to 16 points and seven boards in the half.
Memphis hit five of its first six shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, but couldn't put any distance between themselves and the Knights until they perked up at the defensive end. The Tigers turned a pair of UCF turnovers into fastbreak layup by Pellom and Dixon and slipped away to a 25-18 lead.
Sykes and center Stephon Blair's work on the offensive glass kept UCF close, but it was back-to-back 3-pointers from Williams and freshman reserve guard Steven Haney that gave UCF its first lead and helped the Knights build a 35-32 lead with 2:12 left in the half.
The teams were tied at halftime 39-39.
NOTES: Memphis has won 15 straight road games in conference play (12 in Conference USA, 3 in American Athletic Conference). ... UCF leads the AAC in rebounding with 39.9 per game.. ... Memphis is 14-1 all-time against UCF.