After getting clobbered on the road by the #14 Houston Cougars, UCF Knights Men’s Basketball returned to Addition Financial Arena needing strong finish to the season. They got just that in their penultimate home game of the year, sinking the ECU Pirates 69-66 on a buzzer-beater by Darin Green Jr.
Brandon Mahan Out
With veteran guard Brandon Mahan on crutches and a boot on his right foot, head coach Johnny Dawkins had to make some creative adjustments to the lineup throughout the squad.
The chaos was magnified as four starters saw foul trouble. Guard Darius Perry, guard Darin Green, forward CJ Walker, and center Cheikh Mbacke Diong missed significant minutes.
Center Jamille Reynolds and forward Tyem Freeman responded well as they contributed a combined nine points off the bench to make up the difference in the half. Freeman finished with 11 points on the night while Reynolds had six with two blocked shots.
With Brandon Mahan sidelined due to injury and foul trouble early for starters, @daringreenjr talks about the role of depth in @UCF_MBB’s 69-66 win over @ecubasketball. #GKCO #UCF pic.twitter.com/8eXWdDIaJ6— Kyle Nash (@TheSoTG) February 20, 2022
The Pirates were also awarded the bonus in the first half turning in eight points in 13 attempts from the charity stripe. This, in conjunction with ECU guard Tremont Robinson-White and Tristen Newton combining for 17 first-half points, left the score 32-30 in favor of the Knights heading into the locker room.
Using Depth to Sink Pirates
As UCF’s sharpshooter, Green definitely deserves his props for his role in the victory. He finished with a game-high 19 points after knocking down the game-winner.
Neither team led by more than five points in the second half. Both teams missed only five free throws with UCF hitting 17 compared to the Pirates 14. Both teams tied in turnovers with nine and rebounds with 33.
But what made the difference for the Knights to finish the job? Depth — just like Dawkins and company have preached since media day back in the preseason.
ECU had four double-digit scorers: Robinson-White with 14, Newton with 19, forward Vance Jackson dropping 10, and guard Brandon Suggs hitting 13.
Meanwhile, UCF had Green’s 19, Perry turning in 12, and Freeman’s 11, but they also had six other players with six points or more.
Even with point guard Darius Johnson accidentally tipping in a bucket to tie the game for ECU on a play where the Pirates only had the ball thanks to a questionable call that the officials failed to over properly overturn and all the aforementioned personnel issues, they still had an opportunity to win with 2.3 seconds left. And Green saw to it that they did.
Strong to the Finish
On Wednesday, the Knights host Cincinnati for the final home game of 2021-22. These final games will be important for seeding in the conference tournament. This could significantly impact how UCF plays in The American tourney, which improves the potential for them to get a bid into postseason play.
The final opponents on the schedule are road trips at Tulane and Tulsa. The Tulane game takes place on Thursday, March 3rd at 8 p.m. EST in New Orleans. The Tulsa game tips off at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 6th.