Having watched the defense slip a little more than he was comfortable with in recent games, University of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin made sure the Bearcats were focused Wednesday night on getting back to guarding the way they had for most of the season.

His players obliged by holding Central Florida to 4-for-23 shooting in the first half and UC coasted to a 77-49 victory over the Knights before 5,637 fans at CFE Arena.

UCF took a 4-2 lead on an Isaiah Sykes basket less than three minutes into the game and didn’t score again until the 9:26 mark. By then the Bearcats had reeled off 17 straight points to claim a 19-4 lead and the Knights were 1-for-13 from the field.

“They were struggling,” said UC forward Titus Rubles. “I’ve never seen that before.”

It was exactly the kind of defensive effort Cronin had hoped for when his players took the floor against an obviously overmatched team.

“We were really unhappy with our defense against Houston,” Cronin said. “We weren’t hungry defensively. Anyone that’s seen us play knows that we’re a much better defensive team than we showed last Saturday. To do what we want to do, we’ve got to be great defensively. The guys committed to that tonight. The energy was great. The effort was great.

“Our last five games we were giving up 45 percent from the field and that’s not us. If that didn’t change, we were going down a slippery slope.”

No. 7 UC (24-3 overall, 13-1 in the American Athletic Conference) has won 17 of its last 18 games, with No. 11 Louisville coming to sold-out Fifth Third Arena on Saturday. UCF (10-14, 2-11) has lost 10 of its last 11.

Justin Jackson, with his parents looking on after making the short drive from Cocoa Beach, scored 10 points with seven rebounds and four blocked shots, and Jermaine Sanders added nine points with five rebounds for UC. Sykes scored 13 points with 10 rebounds for UCF, which shot 29.6 percent for the game.

The Bearcats were so locked in defensively that they led 40-18 at halftime, the outcome essentially decided. That cleared the decks for the evening’s main attraction – Sean Kilpatrick’s quest to become the second-leading scorer in UC history behind Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson.

Kilpatrick, who needed 19 points to pass Steve Logan, scored 23. He passed Logan with a runner down the lane with 14 minutes left and finished the night with 1,990 points – five more than Logan, who played guard from 1998-2002.

“I appreciate the fact that my teammates did everything they could to help me get to this milestone,” Kilpatrick said. “I passed a legend. That’s something that I’ll never forget.

It was also a special night for Cronin, who recruited Logan as a UC assistant under Bob Huggins.

“It’s a little nostalgia for me,” Cronin said. “I love Steve. He was such a great player. They’re both very similar guys, with a lot of pride in who they are as a player. Their happiness is wrapped up in whether the team wins and they play well.”