After a heartbreaking loss in double overtime in Monday’s season debut playing shorthanded, UCF Knights Men’s Hoops had some good news with the return of CJ Walker and Tyem Freeman returning to the lineup. Though they only combined for 21 minutes of play, head coach Johnny Dawkins said their presence in practice gave the team a shot in the arm as UCF bested the Florida State Seminoles, 68-54
Walker nor Freeman were in the starting lineup, but Guards Jayhlon Young, Brandon Suggs, and Ithiel Horton as well as center Michael Durr and true freshman forward Taylor Hendricks took the floor to begin the contest.
Darin Green Jr’s Homecoming
Green was UCF’s best shooter last season before transferring to FSU in the offseason. He was a bright spot for the Noles in the contest as he secured double digits by hitting a three-pointer with his feet inside the ‘U’ of the midcourt UCF logo — the type of shot Knights fans know and now loathe. That being said, the Knights also enjoyed center Michael Durr swatting Green’s reverse layup as a statement of out with the old and in with the new.
As the highest in points for FSU, Green finished with 17 while Cameron Corhen and Cam’Ron Fletcher each finished with double digits with 11 and 12 respectively.
Young Playing Like a Veteran
With the tough task of holding down running the point while Darius Johnson recovers from injury, Young had a solid evening. He led among scorers with 15 points also finishing with 4 assists. While there were more turnovers than head coach Johnny Dawkins would like to see, the Knights’ fast pace running through Young was a key element in the victory.
UCF’s ability to push a tempo on an FSU team which themselves were down three frontcourt players led to the Seminoles simply running out of gas where the Knights could blow the game wide open.
Polishing the Glass
Another big part of why UCF was able to pull away was complete dominance in grabbing rebounds. Taking further opportunity from the Noles injuries, they snagged 52 boards compared to FSU’s 22 — a difference of 30. A huge impact on that was Hendrix who led the squad with 12 rebounds paired with 15 points for his first double-double in his college career.
Lahat Thione also turned in 10 rebounds of his own. Also worth mention, Ithiel Horton may not have contributed as much crashing the boards, but he was the third-highest Knights scorer with 14 points.
Thione played for 25 minutes of this contest because CJ Walker got into foul trouble early. Thione’s ability as well as the other frontcourt players led Dawkins into believing that this could be the best stable of frontcourt big men the school has seen in his tenure.
It will be that contribution that UCF will be relying on to go 2-1 after Monday’s matchup facing Western Tennessee at 7:00 pm EST in Addition Financial Arena.