The UCF Knights got dominated on the boards, causing them to fall to the Houston Cougars.
Following Saturday’s loss to USF on Saturday, the Knights (13-7, 4-4 AAC) came into this game with some extra help thanks to Darius Johnson returning to the lineup after missing the previous four games with a foot injury.
The team started off strong early in front of 9,383 fans in Addition Financial Arena, keeping it close in the first half. However, the Cougars (19-2, 7-1 AAC) ran away with it in the second half to give the Knights their third straight loss.
Let’s break down the aspects of the game that lead to the Knights’ loss:
Taylor Hendricks’ Foul Trouble
Taylor Hendricks is really good at basketball. That can’t be denied. And by all accounts, he had a solid game. He scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked four shots, and was perfect from the free-throw line. Whenever he was on the court, he gave the Cougars trouble. But that’s the key phrase, “When he was on the court.”
YO #SCTOP10, CHECK THIS OUT!— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) January 26, 2023
13 straight games with a block for Taylor, now tied for the conference lead in rejections! pic.twitter.com/Vl0xEz9m9d
With 14:07 left in the second half, Hendricks was called for a questionable 4th foul. It would end up giving the Cougars four points off of four free throws — two for Hendrick’s foul and two for the technical foul given to coach Johnny Dawkins for arguing the call. It was also a turning point in terms of momentum because the Knights were forced to sub Hendricks out so he would avoid fouling out.
Hendricks was out for six and a half minutes and it was at that time that the Cougars really put the score out of reach. The Knights struggled to score while the Cougars seemed to constantly put the ball in the hoop. Once Hendricks was put back in the game the Knights cut the lead in half in 40 seconds. But by that point, it was too late to catch back up.
Hendricks’ foul trouble forced the Knights to keep their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer on the bench, which created a weakness that the Cougars took advantage of.
The Knights struggled under the glass all night. They only had 27 rebounds while Houston had 38 rebounds, tying for their worst rebound differential this season.
The difference was more pronounced with offensive rebounds which the Cougars had 16 and the Knights had 9. This gave the Cougars 16 second-chance points. In a game where there was rarely a double-digit lead, a lack of rebounding is what prevented the Knight from closing the gap.
The lack of rebounds played into the Knights’ overall defensive struggles.
The Cougars scored on 60% of their possessions. The Knights allowed them to shoot 11-27 from beyond the arc.
This is the fourth game in a row where they have given up more than 70 points, which corresponds with how long the team has been without Micheal Durr, who is out with a hand injury. In their first 16 games, the Knights gave up 70+ points only three times.
Knight of the Night: Ithiel Horton
On a night that saw him join the 1000-point club, Ithiel Horton played a key role. He dropped 18 points by going 6-for-12 on field-goal attempts and 3-for-6 on three-point attempts.
#3 @uhcougarmbk Head Coach Kelvin Sampson was impressed with @UCF_MBB Guard Ithiel Horton’s shooting. #GKCO #chargeon pic.twitter.com/Yy5R2uBZxW— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCFBanneret_SBN) January 26, 2023
The Knights have now lost three in a row. They are sixth in the conference with a 4-4 conference record. It is fair to say things are now crucial for a team that many were saying could make the NCAA tournament two weeks ago after their incredible double-overtime win over Memphis.
At this point, all fans can hope for is that they win against Temple, who feature former Knight Jamille Reynolds in his return to Addition Financial Arena, on Saturday and begin a winning streak.
After the #houston game, @UCF_MBB head coach Johnny Dawkins spoke about the importance of the crowd’s presence in big games for not just that night, but for contests moving forward. #GKCO #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/3guxTW30m5— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCFBanneret_SBN) January 26, 2023