Monday night saw basketball return to Addition Financial Arena with a double-header as both the UCF Knights’ men’s and women’s basketball teams began their inaugural season as a member of the Big 12.
The women began the night by wiping out the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, and then the men followed that up by taking down the FIU Panthers.
Let’s go over both games:
Women’s Basketball Put on a Historic Performance
The season couldn’t have started much better for the Knights. After starting slow, the team caught fire and defeated the Wildcats 101-63.
Second highest scoring game since 1998 ️ pic.twitter.com/Wn4jfz2gT3— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) November 7, 2023
The Knights’ performance wasn’t just great, it was historic. This was the first time since 1999 that the team has scored over 100 points in a game. Here are the key factors:
Kaitlin Peterson’s Hot Hand
Before this game, the most points Kaitlin Peterson ever scored in a game was 11, which she did when she was a freshman at Indiana. Tonight, she scored 31 points.
After starting slow with only five points in the first half, she absolutely exploded for 26 in the second half. She went 12/19 from the field and 6/10 from three-point range.
Five of those three-pointers came in the second half and ultimately allowed the Knights to pull away from the Wildcats.
Ouuuuuweeeeeee another three for KP pic.twitter.com/dUVNfv5faD— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) November 7, 2023
Peterson said that in the second quarter, she was so in the zone, that it felt like no one was guarding her.
“Honestly I didn’t even notice the defense,” Peterson said. “I was just shooting it and it was going in.”
When Knights head coach Sylvia Messer was asked if she was shocked by Peterson’s performance she said that it was “not a surprise for me.”
More Offensive Firepower
Peterson wasn’t the only player who had a good night — three other Knights scored double-digits in the game: Mya Burns scored 10 points and Laila Jewett and Jayla Kelly both scored 14.
The team overall had a very strong shooting performance, shooting nearly 50% from field goal range (21-for-44).
Messer said she was happy that the game’s result was thanks to multiple players stepping up on offense.
“I was impressed with the collective effort of the team,” Messer said.
Dominating in the Paint
Before the season, Coach Messer said she wanted the team to be gritty. They definitely showed that grittiness tonight.
The Knights dominated in the paint, combining for a total of 52 rebounds compared to the Wildcats’ 31.
The team also recorded seven steals and four blocks. They were also very physical whenever the wildcats tried to drive to the basket, which eventually forced them to try and make bad shots.
The most notable defensive performance of the night has to go to Achol Akot, who recorded 14 rebounds and three blocks.
Messer said she believes the team showed how tough they can be on defense in the game.
“Defensively, I thought we did better in being gritty on the defensive end,” Messer said.
Next game: Monday, November 13 vs. Anderson
Men’s Basketball too much for FIU
While not quite as dominant as the women, the men also started the season on the right foot by defeating the FIU Panthers by the score of 85-63.
The Knights’ performance wasn’t perfect. They gave up 18 turnovers and were missing C.J. Walker who suffered a knee injury ninth team’s final closed-door scrimmage and will be out for an undisclosed amount of time:
Despite all of that, the Knights led virtually wire-to-wire. Here are the two things that played a major role in the Knights’ victory.
Jaylin Sellers Led the Way
Jaylin Sellers, a transfer from Ball State, led the way for the Knights on offense in his debut.
Sellers scored 23 points, one away from his career high, and shot 8/15 from the floor, including the highlight of the night:
Following the game, Sellers said he was happy with his performance, even though he believes he still has some stuff to work on.
“I think it (his Performance) was pretty good,” Sellers said. “Just being able for my teammates to trust me to get to my spots and honestly just helping me stay focused even though I wasn’t shooting the ball as well or playing to the capability that I should be able to.”
A Team Effort
While Sellers had the most notable performance, the Knights didn’t rely on him to get this win. They relied on multiple members of the team to step up and play a part.
The Knight’s second-leading scorer, Darius Johnson, had 15.
13 players saw playing time in the game. While Sellers and Johnson led in scoring, guys like Omar Payne and Ibrahima Diallo handled things on the defensive side, blocking and rebounding.
According to UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins, it was a choice to have multiple guys play because he wanted to see how some of the players would perform under the lights.
“We played about three or four freshmen,” Dawkins said. “So they got quality minutes against a good team, a team that presses, with is a hard team to play against. So I think that they’ll benefit from that as their careers go forward.”
What’s Next for Both Teams?
The women will be back at home on Monday, November 13th. They will take on the Anderson Trojans.
As for the men, they will face a tough challenge on the road as they will travel to Miami to take on the 13th-ranked Hurricanes. That game will be on Friday, November, 10th.