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UCF Men’s Basketball Experiences Baffling Loss to FAU

Knights fall at home despite building a 20-point lead early

NCAA Basketball: Wichita State at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, are you sick of winning?

All these joyous stories about UCF football’s winning streak, UCF volleyball’s winning streak and ESPN College GameDay coming to Orlando got you feeling just ... too happy?

Well, allow me to frustrate you for a few minutes and talk about the game that UCF men’s basketball played Sunday versus Florida Atlantic, an 80-79 defeat.

In a nutshell:

Put another way: UCF — a team that is projected to win one of the five best college basketball conferences with the AAC Preseason Player of the Year — squandered multiple double-digit leads in a home loss to an FAU team that turned over 80 percent of its roster from last year, is implementing an entirely new coaching staff and is expected to finish at the bottom of Conference USA.

So, there’s that.

Three in the Key

1. No Hustle ...

The Knights lost the battle on the offensive boards, 17-12, and held a narrow edge in second-chance points, 15-12. Given UCF’s advantages in size, length and athleticism, those numbers shouldn’t have been that close. But they were because the Knights didn’t play with as much #want as FAU. Head coach Johnny Dawkins said as much after the game.

2. ... Nor Flow

The Knights led by 10 with 5:51 to play. And from there to the end of the game, B.J. Taylor was the only Knight to get on the score sheet. He and Aubrey Dawkins were the only UCF players who took shots in those final handful of minutes. Taylor did everything he could, scoring UCF’s last 11 points, but this offense has to be more diverse. The Knights are more versatile and dangerous on offensive end this year, yet, it seemed like it worked only when Taylor was driving toward the basket. Everything else looked awkward and stagnant, especially in those closing stages.

3. Dayon Griffin Suspended

The Knights could have used Dayon Griffin’s outside-shooting ability in the second half of this one, but he wasn’t available because he has been suspended by the team. Johnny Dawkins said Griffin will not play in any of UCF’s three games this week at the Myrtle Beach Invitational and wouldn’t rule out keeping Griffin under suspension after that tournament. Chance McSpadden and Frank Bertz, as wing players off the bench, will have to pick up the slack for as long as Griffin is banned.

Knight of the Night

B.J. Taylor: My BGB colleague Luke Sarris wrote last week that Taylor would be mentioned frequently in this space throughout the season. Well, Luke put B.J. here after the season-opening win over Rider, and he deserves to be back. If not for Taylor’s tough shot-making in the closing minutes, UCF wouldn’t have had a chance in those last few minutes.

The Big Number

Two. As in the number of games played this season. I love my boy, former UCF sports reporter Juan Toribio, but I can’t agree with this:

Obviously, UCF supporters are upset at the result. They have a damn good reason to be; This was a given-away home game to a team that is probably somewhere around 300 out of the 359 teams in Division I.

But it is still very early, and this could be just a blip. Which leads me to ...

Who’s Got Next?

... The Myrtle Beach Invitational, where we should learn a lot about these Knights. It’s not the greatest field in the world, but it sure would be nice to see UCF face a ranked West Virginia team in a possible final. The Knights will start off action Thursday at 5 p.m. by taking on a Cal State Fullerton group that went dancing last March. A win there would push the Knights forward to a matchup against either Wake Forest or Saint Joseph’s on Friday.

If UCF plays up to its talent for a full 40 minutes, they can legitimately win this thing or at least challenge the Mountaineers in the final.

But if Sunday’s result finds a way to repeat itself, I’ll become much more bearish on the Knights’ long-term outlook.

Thursday’s game will be aired on ESPN 3. All of the Myrtle Beach Invitational games will be shown somewhere on the ESPN family of networks, but there hasn’t been full clarification as to where yet.