In what is being speculated as the final “War On I-4” in Addition Financial Arena for the foreseeable future, UCF Knights Men’s Hoops hosted the USF Bulls. The Knights fell short in a heated battle where both sides combined for four technical fouls, 82-75.
Funny How That Works . . .
When UCF battled South Florida a month ago at the Yuengling Center, they were without both starting point guard Darius Johnson and center Michael Durr. Out of the gate, the impact could be felt with these two back in action.
With the Bulls needing to account for Durr down low, the shots from the three-point arc became much easier to find. Guard Ithiel Horton in particular reached double digits in the first 11:30 including hitting his first four from downtown. Horton finished with 28 points on a season-high seven 3-point shots.
Forward Taylor Hendricks also had a strong night delivering 18 points with four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and three steals.
Yet as the night went on, head coach Johnny Dawkins would keep point guard Jayhlon Young on the court for a greater portion of the game than Johnson who lead the team with five rebounds.
Additionally, Durr’s presence didn’t have the desired effect Knight fans hoped for in other places. The Bulls completely dominated the boards 47-26 for the evening. This ruling of the paint led to a 48-40 advantage at the half for the visitors, a lead that would hold for the rest of the contest.
The Bulls Charge On . . . ?
USF led by as many as 14 at the beginning of the 2nd half. However, between two players fouling out and missing nine of their free throw attempts going 16-25, the Knight did close it 72-71 late in the 4th. However, the Bulls held on to complete the road win with the help of connecting on 50% from beyond the arc, 10-20.
One of that pair who tallied five fouls was guard Tyler Harris who finished the game with 13 points. The other was guard Ryan Conwell who finished with 14.
TAY TOO GOOD WITH IT!— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) February 23, 2023
16 points and 50% from downtown in this one pic.twitter.com/PxsvG9WJhF
However, while he only had six points, there’s a strong case that center Russell Tchewa had the greatest non-scoring impact for USF pulling down 13 rebounds, a block, and a steal. Tchewa’s job of regulating the glass was only made easier when Durr fouled out with 4:36 remaining in the contest.
To NIT or Not
While this season’s Knights basketball squad is objectively better than last year talent-wise, losing so many close and tough games has severely impacted this team’s chances down the stretch.
A further degree of difficulty standing in UCF’s way is two of the final three games are on the road. They face the Temple Owls and Tulsa Golden Hurricane on February 28th and March 1st before concluding regular season play by hosting East Carolina on March 5th.
They will need these wins as well as a good showing in the AAC Tournament to land a spot in postseason play.