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UCF Men’s Hoops Rides Past Roughnecks, 70-37

Knights beat Western Illinois to go 2-1 as they continue to tune up their game before heading to Nassau.

Derek Warden

After smashing an injury-depleted Florida State Seminoles squad, the UCF Knights hosted the Western Illinois Leathernecks at Addition Financial Arena Monday night. The Knights quickly pulled away to soften the Leathernecks, 70-37.

Turning Down Turnovers

In UCF’s first two outings, they’ve averaged 17 turnovers and managed to lose the ball only eight times in this contest. While head coach Johnny Dawkins acknowledged improvement, he still felt like the offense was sloppy in certain elements after the game regardless of missing Darius Johnson. This included little things like frontcourt players posting too high in the paint or passing and movement away from the ball being less crisp than they should be to maximize effectiveness.

Part of the reason for the Knights’ holding onto the ball may have been their taking advantage of their size with 7’2” center Michael Durr. Easy passes for high-percentage shots led Durr to put up nine points while also contributing a team-leading seven rebounds.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

UCF wasn’t just effective down low. While Durr was the top starter in points, guard CJ Kelly off the bench made a huge impact as the Knights’ top scorer with 17 points. After the game, Kelly praised his squad for their depth of talent and effort in practice making everyone better. It’s that preparation that set up the Knights boasting 12 different players with points on the stat sheet.

While the Knights only had one double-digit scorer, the fact that the team was able to see production from so many different elements is a definite plus.

Lessons Learned From Wins

While Dawkins had his constructive criticisms of the team offensively, he was impressed with the defensive performance on the night. Defending with greater intensity was a focal point of practice after Friday night’s game.

While Dawkins acknowledged that the Leathernecks were short-handed in the contest, he also appreciates that holding a team under 20 points in each half is an accomplishment in college basketball. His hope is that the team can build on this heading into the Baha Mar Hoops Championship tournament in Nassau, Bahamas.

With this representing UCF’s first road game they will be challenged by facing Oklahoma State on Friday with a chance to face either DePaul or Santa Clara the following Sunday. Dawkins hopes this squad can continue to build their chemistry while he evaluates the way the play away from their home arena.