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UCF Deals With Foul Issues in Loss at Wichita State

Knights’ valiant road effort falls short

Derek Warden

The UCF Knights battled all night against the Wichita State Shockers, and some would argue also against some whistles by the officials, to stay in the game, but the Shockers’ domination on the boards was too much as the Knights fell to Wichita State, 87-79, to fall to 11-8 overall and 2-5 in the American.

Dexter Dennis led the way for the Shockers with 18 points and 11 rebounds in the win, while the Knights were led by Darin Green Jr. with 18 points, as well as Cesar DeJesus, who had 16 points in the loss.

Here are the three positives and negatives from the game for the Knights that helped tell the story of the game.

UCF gave up too many second chances

The Knights got nearly doubled up on the boards in the first half, 45-28, and 9-3 on the offensive boards, with 7 of the Shockers’ 9 offensive rebounds coming in the first half. Wichita State dominated in second chance points, outscoring the Knights 13-0 in that department in the first half and 19-3 for the game.

Foul Trouble Doomed Knights Upset Bid

Collin Smith was once again in foul trouble, picking up 2 fouls in the first half as he was held scoreless. Smith pick up a 3rd foul a couple minutes into second half and never could get going as he was held to 2 points on 1 of 6 from the field and fouled out with 8:53 to go in the game. It was the fourth time this season that Smith has fouled out.

Avery Diggs also dealt with foul trouble in the game, picking up four fouls in the first half, which made the Knights even smaller against an already taller Shockers front court.

For the game, Wichita State went to the line 42 TIMES! The Shockers made 29 of 42 from stripe. It is the most free throws against a Knights team since Detroit Mercy went to the line 36 times on December 19, 2015. The last time an opponent went to the free throw line over 40 times against a Knights team prior to Saturday night was February 11, 2009, when UTEP went 31 for 41 from the line.

UCF got whistled for 31 fouls in the game while the Shockers were whistled for just 19. To put that number in perspective, the last time the Knights were called for 30 fouls or more in a game was March 4th, 2009 at Tulsa, when the Knights were called for 31 fouls. The Knights were called for 26 fouls at Houston on January 3rd. Other than the Houston and Wichita State games, the Knights have been under 20 fouls called against them in every game. Thankfully the Knights took advantage of the opportunities they did get at the free throw line, going for 23 for 26.

The point I am making is the refs did not give a favorable whistle to UCF all night, and more especially in a critical part of game, where Dazon Ingram drove to basket and scored a basket that would have gotten the Knights within 57-53 at the under-8 time out. Instead of Ingram getting a call and a free throw, he was called for a charge, and quicky was hit with a technical foul, which resulted in him joining Smith on bench, having fouled out. The officiating did not cost the Knights the game, but it certanly did not hurt Wichita State’s chances of winning either.

The amount of fouls called in the game did not help the Knights keep the game low-scoring as UCF gave up a season-high in points with 87. It is the 2nd time they have given up 80+ points this season, with the previous high coming at SMU on January 8th when the Knights lost 81-74. That matches the amount of times UCF gave up 80+ points last season.

On the January 23rd edition of our podcast, I discuss the keys to UCF keeping the game at Wichita State below 70 points, as the Knights in the Johnny Dawkins era have not fared well when giving up 70+ points, compared to giving up less than 70, and especially giving up under 60 points. The conversation starts at around 33 minute mark.

The Knights now fall to 0-4 all-time against Wichita State since the Shockers joined the league. Wichita State scored at least 70 points or more in each of the four meetings.

But not all was lost for the Knights at Wichita State on Saturday Night as some nice positives came out of the game.

Tony Johnson’s Coming Out Party

With the Knights in foul trouble all night, it forced Johnny Dawkins to go with a 5 guard lineup and it worked!

Tony Johnson got significant playing time and took advantage, scoring 16 points on 4 of 8 from the 3-point line along with 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 17 minutes of action - all season highs for the freshman, who had not played that many minutes the entire season going into the game. Johnson made a shot at buzzer in 1st half from three-quarter court to get the Knights within 9 at halftime.

Johnson may have earned himself more playing time for the rest of the season, and perhaps given the Knights an extra option off the bench of playing some small ball in certain match-ups moving forward.

The freshmen handled Wichita State’s hostile environment

Along with Johnson, Darin Green Jr. had a strong game, breaking out of recent slump to score 18 points to lead the Knights in scoring, hitting 4 of 8 from the 3-point line and 5 of 11 overall from the field in 20 minutes.

An argument could be made the young players on roster handled the Wichita State environment better than the veterans on the team.

I really like what I saw from Johnson and Green Saturday, as well as what we have seen from freshman Dre Fuller when he was healthy earlier this season. Those three freshmen are part of Knights’ future and as they continue to grow with experience, that will pay off for the program down the road.

UCF got some easy baskets off turnovers

UCF outscored Wichita State 23-7 on fast break points and outscored the Shockers 12-5 on points off turnovers. UCF only turned the ball over seven times for the game, which allowed them to hang around despite all the whistles going against them.

The Knights return home to host Memphis on Wednesday night with tip off at 7 p.m. with the game airing on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.