The UCF Knights passed their first road test of the season Sunday after dismantling the Illinois State Redbirds 67-65.
The Knights started off the game sloppy and trailed for most of the first thirty minutes of the contest.
Coach Johnny Dawkins made a small tweak to the starting lineup, opting to start Malian wing Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia over Ceasar DeJesus.
Doumbia failed to score in eight minutes of action and DeJesus was not seen often, playing just 11 minutes off the bench and scoring a pair of free throws.
The Knights trailed by as much as nine but were able to stay in the game thanks to sound possessions down the stretch and second-chance points. UCF outscored Illinois State 18-7 on second chance points in the second half and it paid off in a big way.
Despite keeping up with the Redbirds, the Knights still trailed by six with 3:15 to go. Then, perhaps the most impressive stretch of Knights basketball so far in the young season played out on the floor.
Texas A&M transfer Brandon Mahan grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back up to cut the lead to four.
Freshman Darin Green Jr. stole the ball on the ensuing possession, leading to a fast break and two points at the free throw line.
Then, two possessions later, Green hit a three to give the Knights their first lead since the 15:33 mark in the first half.
The Knights were not out of the woods yet as Illinois State forward Rey Idowu made his first bucket of the game to take the lead back.
The Knights would go back to Green on the next possession to try and repeat the magic from the previous possession, but a miss led to a Mahan rebound to put it back up to retake the lead.
The win this afternoon really helps a team with as many new faces as UCF’s.
The chemistry improves when teams face adversity and win on the road, and while this is far from a perfect product, the Knights went 1-0 and made progress today.