There was more electricity in the air on Wednesday night when UCF Knights Men’s Hoops opened play in the American Athletic Conference hosting the Wichita State Shockers. After starting 9-3, the Knights opened this next phase of the season with a 52-45 victory.
Knights Block Party
While UCF allowed a few uncontested baskets early to start the contest, the Knights tightened up the defense with five blocks on the night with four in the first half. The squad finished with eight steals in a defensive effort that gained the lead even after missing the final six shots of the first half, 26-23.
Reservation for two rejected ❌ pic.twitter.com/rDDZluoGfp— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) December 29, 2022
Feast and Famine on the Run
Every time the Shockers would close the gap, the Knights would charge ahead in response — only to fall back to another scoring drought. While Wichita State never have the lead, they closed within one point three times in the second half.
The final push was quashed by point guard and team captain Darius Johnson with four clutch free throws within the last minute. Johnson had stats all over the sheet with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, and four steals.
Also worth mention is CJ Kelly’s well-rounded performance. He recorded eight points, two blocks, and two steals while also leading the Knights in rebounds. Taylor Hendricks and Brandon Suggs each did their part as well scoring nine points each.
Houston on the Horizon
Game 2 of conference action amps the difficulty level to a season-high level as the Knights play the first of a pair of road games. The #3 Houston Cougars host the Knights on New Year’s Eve followed by the ECU Pirates on January 4th.
After winning the first game in @american_Conf play over @goshockerswbb, @ucf_mbb head coach Johnny Dawkins commented on the upcoming road game against @uhcougarmbk #GKCO #chargeon pic.twitter.com/mHxVV7penC— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCFBanneret_SBN) December 29, 2022
The Cougars made it to the regional regional finals in the AAC tournament last year. And could pose the Knights biggest challenge of the regular season.