The UCF Knights men’s basketball team heads into Thanksgiving with the Jacksonville Classic trophy.
After defeating Cal State Fullerton at home in the tournament’s campus game on Thursday, the Knights headed up to Flagler College in St. Augustine to play back-to-back games.On a floor named after Bo Clark, a man whose name hangs in the rafters at Addition Financial Arena, the Knights defeated South Dakota State on Sunday in the tournament’s semi-finals and then defeated Charlotte in the finals in a pair of three-point thrillers.
Let’s take a look at both games to see how the Knights won this tournament.
Staying Ahead of the Jackrabbits
On Sunday, the Knights defeated South Dakota State 83-80 in a close, back-and-forth affair.
Hopping into the championship game ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/dPPgYpBQ5G— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) November 20, 2023
Keys to Victory:
- Strong Individual Offensive Performances
The Knights had four players who scored double digits: Omar Payne scored 10, Darius Johnson scored 11, Jaylin Sellers had 20, and perhaps most impressively Marchellus Avery led the team with 22 points off the bench.
Fantastic 4️⃣ These guys each ended last night with double figure points pic.twitter.com/PXw1l0nrBz— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) November 20, 2023
- More Accurate Free Throw Shooting
The Knights may not have had the best free throw performance, with the team going 75% from the line. But it was better than better than South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits went 20-29 (69%) at the line. Missing a lot of those opportunities cost them in the end.
- Better Field Goal Percentage
The Knights simply made more shots. The team’s combined field goal percentage was 49.2% while South Dakota State’s was 44.4%. As mentioned earlier, this was a close game, so simply shooting the ball a little more accurately was huge for the Knights.
Stealing It From the 49ers in Overtime
Much like the South Dakota State game, the tournament final against Charlotte was a close one. The only difference was this one was so close it needed to go into overtime.
With less than a minute left in OT, Charolette was ahead by six. Howeve,r thanks to some clutch free throws, great defensive plays, and a little luck, the Knights pulled out the 74-71 victory.
Keys to Victory:
- Darius Johnson
Johnson was named tournament MVP for this performance, and it’s not hard to see why. He had a career-high 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists. He also helped clinch the game by making both of his free throws with five seconds left in the game to put the Knights up by three.
- Jaylin Sellers and Ibrahima Diallo
Johnson may have been the MVP but both of these players also deserve praise.
Despite coming off the bench Diallo scored 10 points and had 14 rebounds. He also went four-for-seven from field goal range and would be the one to score the Knights’ go-ahead basket.
Meanwhile, Sellers scored 19 points, going seven-for-16 from field goal range and three-for-seven from three-point range, and recorded six rebounds, five of which were offensive rebounds. He also made a clutch steal in the final seconds, preventing Charlotte from scoring the game-winning basket and leading to Darius Johnson getting fouled and making those crucial free throws.
Never back down, never WHAT? pic.twitter.com/egOmG8Z2Ex— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) November 21, 2023
- Winning the Rebound Battle:
The Knights dominated the boards, grabbing 51 rebounds while Charlotte had 36. 17 of those rebounds came on offense, allowing the Knights to score plenty of second-chance points.
The Knights will be back in action on Sunday, taking on the Stetson Hatters at Addition Financial Arena at 4 p.m.