The UCF Knights Men’s Basketball team marked their return to action after an over eight-day break with a decisive 74-51 victory over Maine Monday night.
Guard Darius Johnson led the way for the Knights (7-3), coming off the bench with 16 points and going a perfect 4/4 from beyond the arc. He was a near game-time decision after not practicing on Sunday due to an injury, head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game.
“It was one of those things where we can’t strategize and do what we want to do if someone doesn’t practice and defend and all the things we got to do in prepping for that game and so he had to take a different role today,” Dawkins said. “I thought he handled it very well, came in and gave us great energy and made some shots.”
Fellow guard Jaylin Sellers and forward Marcelus Avery joined Johnson with double-digit points, scoring 13 and 12 respectively. It helped that the Knights got out to a commanding 41-18 lead by halftime thanks to converting 52% of their shots and going 4/7 from beyond the arc. Additionally, Maine (8-5) responded by sinking only 26% of its first-half shots and going 1/9 from three-point land.
“The three-point shot is the great equalizer,” Dawkins said. “I feel our guys defended the three really, really well tonight.”
Second Half Questions
However, despite UCF retaining a commanding lead for the rest of the contest and the Bears’ struggles with three-point shooting persisting, both teams put up 33 second-half points. It continues a trend seen in most games so far this season: Following Monday night, the Knights are averaging 38.6 second-half points allowed per game, a substantial difference from the 26.2 first-half points allowed per game.
“We just need to perfect putting two halves together,” Sellers said. “I feel like we had a few games where we played good in the first half and not-so-good in the second half. So, I feel like we got to put two halves together as a team and just stay focused on our defensive gameplan, just having attention to detail, honestly.”
Guard Shemarri Allen, who delivered five assists and flirted with a double-double with nine points and nine assists, echoed Sellers’ sentiments.
“Just coming out in the second half and having a defensive mindset like we do in the first half, not so much trading baskets with a team just because we’re up a certain amount of points,” Allen said. “Remaining focused on the defensive end, I feel like offensively we’ll get what we want, just staying locked in defensively is what we need to focus on more.”
The win shot the Knights up ten spots to #74 in the NET rankings.
The Knights stay at Addition Arena for their Holiday Game on Thursday at 7 p.m. with Florida A&M.
The Rattlers (2-7) are coming off a road trip to Iowa in which they lost to both Iowa and Iowa State.