The UCF Knights could not hold off the Memphis Tigers, who outscored the Knights 35-29 in the second half, led by Precious Achiuwa, who scored 13 of his 18 points in the 2nd to help the Tigers escape Orlando with a 59-57 win. Collin Smith and Ceasar DeJesus led the Knights with 13 points each.
UCF drops to 11-9 overall and 2-6 in American Conference.
Here are three positives and three negatives from the game.
Where Did Lance Thomas Come From?
Coming into this game, Lance Thomas was not a guy you figured would not be the difference in the game, as Thomas averaged only 2.4 points per game. On Wednesday Thomas erupted for 20 points on 8 of 11 from the field and 4 of 6 from the 3-point line in 24 minutes. Prior to Wednesday, Thomas was 1 of 16 from the 3 point line on the season and had only scored 14 points in his previous last 10 games.
Precious Achiuwa and Memphis Started Making Shots in 2nd Half
The Knights held Memphis to 32% shooting in first half but could not slow down the Tigers in the second half, as Memphis shot 58% from the field, led by Thomas and potential NBA Lottery draft pick Precious Achiuwa, who scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half. Achiuwa and Thomas combined for 26 of Memphis’ 35 second-half points, going 10 of 11 from the field.
Achiuwa took over the game in the last ten minutes and showed why there were 27 NBA scouts in attendance to see him play in person.
Knights Could Not Get it Going vs. a Strong Memphis Defense
The Knights’ offense struggled all night from the field, shooting 39% from the field overall while only going 4 of 15 from the three point line.
This should not be a surprise though, as Memphis is one of top defenses in the country, ranking 3rd in the NCAA in FG% against, giving up only 36% from the field, and 62nd in 3-point percentage defense, giving up just 30%.
Collin Smith, who scored 10 points in the first half, struggled in the second half, only scoring three points on 1 of 6 from the field. Smith picked up his 4th foul with the Knights trailing 44-43 in 2nd half. Once Smith went on bench, Memphis went on a 5-0 run over 3 minutes to increase the lead to 49-43 with 6:06 left in the game. Smith ended the game with 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Knights.
UCF Stop Getting To The Free Throw Line
One of the reasons the Knights had the lead at halftime was getting points from the free throw line. UCF went 8 of 11 from the line in the first half, but only went to the line twice in second, splitting those two free throws to end the game 9 of 13. UCF has gone 32-39 (82%) from the line the last two games.
Hopefully UCF can continue to get to the free throw line and knock them down to help the offense moving forward.
Another Strong Game from Darin Green Jr.
Green had his second consecutive strong game for the Knights, scoring 11 points on 4 of 8 from the field and 3 of 6 from the 3-point line in 23 minutes. It will be interesting to see if Green’s minutes go up more as the season continues.
Dre Fuller Returns
Dre Fuller returned after a 4-game absense due to injury. Fuller was rusty, and he did not score in 9 minutes of action with 3 rebounds on 0 for 1 from field. Hopefully Fuller can get back into the rhythm that he was in prior to the injury, where he earned his way into the starting lineup for his strong play on both ends of the court.
Overall, the Knights’ Defense Gave Them a Chance
For the third time in last four games, the Knights held their opponent to under 60 points for the game, and gave themselves a chance at pulling off the win, holding Memphis 14 points below their average of 73 points.
The Knights will now head to Tampa to take on the South Florida Bulls Saturday with tip-off at 4 p.m.