Somehow, someway, the UCF Knights kept fighting and found a way game to knock off Memphis 107-104 in double overtime to improve to 13-4 on the season and 4-1 in AAC on Wednesday night.
Ithiel Horton led the way with 30 points including a 3-pointer near the end of regulation to send it to overtime.
Clutch gene activated. We're going to OT! pic.twitter.com/e37vopRJXE— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) January 12, 2023
C.J. Kelly added 21 points and 7 assists, and Brandon Suggs aded 17 as the Knights overcame a 14-point deficit in the 2nd half to pull out the win.
Knight Nation...mission accomplished pic.twitter.com/ygNmql2KNe— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) January 12, 2023
It will go down as one of the greatest basketball games ever played on the UCF campus, especially considering how shorthanded the Knights were coming into the game.
Let’s break down the biggest takeaways from this classic:
1. UCF’s depth won the game
Head Coach Johnny Dawkins told me after the win over Florida State that this is the deepest team he has had here at UCF. That was showcased on Wednesday night as the Knights were without starters Darius Johnson and Michael Durr with injuries, not to mention C.J. Walker, who is out for the season. Johnson missed his 2nd straight game with a lower leg injury while Durr injured his thumb in the SMU win.
Then starters Taylor Hendricks and Jayhlon Young both fouled out in regulation.
In stepped the Knights’ bench, which outscored the Tigers' bench 39-27.
Kelly came off the bench to help run the offense in place of Young, flipping with Brandon Suggs who started at the two.
Tyem Freeman chipped in with 8 points in 22 minutes and P. J. Edwards, who came into the game having scored just 4 points in 39 minutes, scored 8 points in overtime.
UCF just beat an NCAA Tournament-quality Memphis team that was led by Kendric Davis, who scored 42 points, one point off from the most points ever scored in a single AAC game. The Knights overcame Davis playing like his Head Coach Penny Hardaway did when he played for the Orlando Magic in his prime:
Wednesday night was Hardaway’s last trip to UCF as a conference rival.
2. UCF has had huge success with the Transfer Portal
Dawkins and his coaching staff had huge success with the Transfer Portal this off-season with the additions of Horton, Kelly, Suggs, and Young, who combined for 75 of their 107 points tonight.
Young has been an unsung hero, stepping in at the starting point guard role for Johnson, who missed his 7th game of the season on Wednesday night. Michael Durr and Lahat Thione had to fill inside replacing C.J. Walker, who only played four games this season and is out for the rest of the season with a lower leg injury.
3. Historic 3-Point Shooting
As we get under 1:00 here in 2OT at @AdditionFiArena, history is being made:— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCFBanneret_SBN) January 12, 2023
- 1st time either @UCF_MBB OR one of its opponents has reached 100 points since 2015.
- PJ Edwards connected for the Knights' 16th three-pointer of the game, tying the #UCF team single-game record. pic.twitter.com/wKL3G1kxM3
UCF had not been shooting the ball from the 3-point line in conference play like they had in non-conference. They had only been averaging 29% and six threes a game in AAC play, versus 37% and more than 8 makes per game in non-conference.
Wednesday night, the Knights shot 45% from the arc (16/35). The 16 threes ties the school record set in 2004 against Campbell.
Hopefully, Wednesday night marked the return of the UCF 3-point shooting that we saw at the start of the year.
4. When Will The Injuries Stop?
Dawkins revealed after the game that Durr suffered a fracture in his left hand in the SMU win on Sunday and will need surgery which will put him out for a while.
Without Durr and Walker, UCF’s frontcourt will need contributions from Thione and Thierno Sylla when the Knights want to go big next to Taylor Hendricks in the lineup, and from guys like Freeman and maybe Edwards when UCF goes to a smaller lineup.
The news on Johnson is better as he is day-to-day, and he could return if not at Tulane on Saturday then hopefully at South Florida on January 21st. They will need Johnson healthy the rest of the way and to avoid more injuries to anyone else on the team to have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament.
OT: UCF FANS BROUGHT IT
The fans brought passion and energy to the building Wednesday night and made a difference. They brought the juice that the shorthanded Knights players needed.
It was the first home game after the start of the spring semester, and although the attendance was 6,800, the students in particular were as loud as they have been since before COVID.
Next season, UCF will be in the Big 12 conference. Games like Wednesday night are going to be common in the Big 12 on a weekly basis. That is why it is regarded as the best conference in college basketball.
For UCF to have success in the Big 12, the program will need the support it got Wednesday night from the students and local community on a nightly basis. Considering the injuries this team is dealing with currently, they will also be needed for the rest of this season.