The UCF Knights are throwing a party tonight after their most impressive conference victory of the season, an 83-75 win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
The Knights shot an impressive 55.6 percent from the field and an incredible 57.1 percent from behind the three-point line.
Half of the three-point heaves were courtesy of freshman Darin Green Jr., who shot 6-7 from three and a career-high 26 points off the bench.
“Things are starting to come together for us,” Green Jr. said. “I can see in practice and it shows during the game.”
The Knights’ first-half offensive barrage was headed by Ceasar DeJesus, who shot 8-13 from the field while dishing out a team-high five assists.
“It was a great team win,” DeJesus said. “We just executed.”
In the second half, the strong offense continued as UCF’s lead ballooned to 19 with just over seven minutes to go following Green’s sixth triple.
But there was a lack of production from leading scorer Collin Smith, who scored just a single point and fouled out after just 17 minutes of action.
The response to Smith’s lack of playing time resulted in more playing time for Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia at the backup center spot.
Doumbia played 15 minutes with eight points and six boards off the bench.
“To see other guys step up like Ibrahim [Doumbia] was really big for us,” coach Johnny Dawkins said.
However, Tulsa became the rash that would not go away. They pulled out a 10-2 run after dipping down to a 19-point deficit to shrink their deficit to 11.
For the second consecutive game, UCF struggled to put their opponent away and kept Tulsa in the contest until the bitter end.
“Down the stretch, we just turned it over too many times,” coach Dawkins said. “We have to clean that up moving forward.”
Tulsa’s deficit shrunk to as little as four, but ultimately they could not complete the comeback.
The Knights won this game with the right combination of luck and skill.
Skill-wise, the team made the extra pass often and found wide open shots.
Luck-wise, the team also made some contested shots and played Tulsa without their leading scorer, junior Brandon Rachal.
The win gives the Knights their fourth win in conference play, and while the team still sits second-to-last in AAC play, the win gives them some much-needed momentum as they approach the second half of conference play.
While the team’s ceiling might not be as high as it was a year ago, this game showed that bricks are being put in place to build the team’s foundation for next year and beyond.
The Knights host the Wichita State Shockers Thursday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.