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UCF Men’s Basketball Catches Tulane Green Wave in Comeback, 68-66

After being down as much as 13, the Knights came back to post another AAC win.

Mbacke Diong celebrates after a slam dunk to put UCF in the lead vs. Tulane.
Photo: Noah Goldberg

The UCF Knights (12-5) bounced back from six quarters of mediocre basketball on Tuesday night leading into Saturday. Not only were they dominated by USF in Tampa, but they were also down big in Greenville at halftime facing ECU. However, finding their identity, UCF managed to pull out the overtime victory over the Pirates. They had hoped to continue that flow hosting the Tulane Green Wave (7-9) at Addition Financial Arena. After surfing their way past a 13-point deficit, they sailed past the Green Wave, 68-66.

Darius Johnson Keeps Getting Better

Both teams struggled early shooting the basketball, but UCF found their grove first leading as much as eight. Tulane cut it to three points going into the half when they went to a full-court press. Freshman point guard Darius Johnson led the Knights going into the locker room in points (9), rebounds (5), and assists (2).

Johnson went on to lead the team in scoring with 17 for the contest while also delivering seven rebounds, four assists, and a steal.

Knights Withstand Tulane’s Second Half Surge

To open the second half, the Green Wave began to crash down, hitting on 11 of their first 13 shots behind Kevin Cook who finished with 16 points, five assists, four rebounds, and a steal. They began to set a myriad of screens to pick up easy buckets while slowing UCF by continuing to play their press.

Tulane had a lead as big as 13, but as head coach Johnny Dawkins reminded everyone in his postgame press conference, basketball is a game of runs.

UCF climbed back into competition on the strength of Darin Green bombing nine of his 14 points from beyond the arc late in the second half. Brandon Mahan appeared in the second half once again hitting a game-tying three.

Mbacke Provides the Spark

But with all the perimeter scoring that fueled the late surge by the Knights, the biggest factor was center Cheikh Mbacke Diong posting a double-double with 16 points, 10 boards, three blocks, and an assist. Diong’s impressive numbers don’t show how many shots he changed up late to keep UCF fighting late.

On Wednesday, the Knights travel for the first game of the season against the Wichita State Shockers, which takes place at 8 pm EST. After that contest where UCF is favored, the Knights come back home to face the #10 Houston Cougars on the 29th.

Coach Dawkins commented on what he thought the Knights need to focus on moving forward.