After feeling the high of winning the Jacksonville Classic tournament, the UCF Knights (4-2) men’s basketball team returned to Addition Financial Arena only to suffer a heartbreaking loss to the Stetson Hatters, 85-82.
The loss to Stetson, who is led by the Knights’ previous head coach Donnie Jones, snapped a 20-game win streak in the series, with the Knights’ last loss to Stetson coming in 2001.
So how did this upset happen? These are the key reasons the Knights lost the game.
Too Many Missed Shots
The Knights simply missed too many shots in the game. UCF shot 43.5% (27-62) from the field and struggled even more with their three-point shooting, going 33.3% (6-18) from beyond the arc.
The only player who kept those percentages from falling even lower was Jaylin Sellers, who scored a career-high 34 points tonight. Sellers was 12-for-16 and three-for-six from three-point range. Not counting shots taken by him, the Knights made just 33% of their shots.
The Knights had a lead for the majority of the game, with the largest lead at 13 points. However, their missed shots kept them from putting the game out of reach and allowed Stetson to get back in the game.
After the game, Sellers said he felt like the team didn’t follow the game plan the coaches gave them.
“I didn’t think the preparation was where it was supposed to be,” Sellers said, “and I think that’s all on us.”
Stetson’s Three Point Shooting
While the Knights struggled from three-point range, Stetson’s three-point shooting was deadly. The Hatters combined to shoot 43.3% (13-30), and in the second half, they really heated up, making 52.9% (9-17) of their threes.
Not only did Stetson make a ton of threes, but they hit them at the right time. When the Knights really began to struggle with their shooting, it seemed like Stetson couldn’t stop making threes. Once they took the lead, there were moments where it looked like the Knights had regained momentum and were about to retake the lead, only for Stetson to hit another three to end that hope.
After the game, Knights head coach Johnny Dawkins said they failed to execute their game plan of trying to stop Stetson’s three-point shooting.
“The threes are something we identified as something we have to take away from them,” Dawkins said. “They’re probably one of the top-25 teams in the country at three-pointers made. They’re making like 41% of their points coming behind the three-point line. That’s a lot. So we identified that as a key and we wanted to take away the three. so the one thing we didn’t take away was the three. So I’m disappointed in how we graded that because that was an emphasis throughout the week.”
Stetson’s Clutch Free Throws
When the Knights went down late, they had chances to get back in the game. they made their shots, including some huge ones like when Darius Johnson scored two and drew a foul to make the score a one-possession game. Eventually, it came down to them needing to intentionally foul Stetson.
If Stetson missed just one free throw, the Knights would have a chance to tie and maybe even regain the lead. But every time they intentionally fouled Stetson, their players wouldn’t miss their free throws.
Stetson shot 95.2% from the free-throw line in the second half. They only missed one free throw, and that miss came very early in the second half. They made 19 free-throws in a row thereafter.
UCF executed its end-of-game strategy well, keeping themselves in the game and getting it town to one possession. But Stetson’s foul shooting kept them from tying it.
The Knights will look to get back in the win column this Saturday. They will be back home to take on the Lipscomb Bisons (5-3) at 4 p.m.