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UCF Men’s Hoops Sinks Pirates to Close Regular Season

Knights head to AAC Tournament as 7th seed

Derek Warden

After a sixth single-possession loss in Philly to the Temple Owls, UCF Knights Men’s Hoops knocked off the East Carolina Pirates at Addition Financial Arena, 84-58 on Senior Knight.

Shooting the Lights Out

From Ithiel Horton’s three-pointer on the opening possession, the Knights hit shots almost at will. An 18-3 first-half run and 51% shooting performance posted UCF to a commanding 40-25 lead at halftime.

Horton scored 25 points and hit 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. Taylor Hendricks posted a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds, plus two blocks.

Protecting the Port

A big key to the Knights’ performance was their domination in the paint. They out-rebounded the Pirates 38-28 while also blocking four shots. Michael Durr posted his best outing since returning from injury, scoring seven points with four rebounds with a block. Durr fouled out with less than three minutes left in the contest.

The Knights also swiped nine steals. Five came from CJ Kelly, who added 12 points — seven of them in a single minute of action in the middle of the second half.

Here Comes the Postseason

The American Athletic Conference Championship tips off Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. The Knights are the 7-seed and will play in the first round against the 10-seed SMU Mustangs. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game that he feels like UCF is capable of peaking at the right time. Although they are in the bottom half of seeding, this is the healthiest the Knights have been as a squad in 2023.

UCF beat SMU by 32 at home in their only meeting this season, back on January 8th. The winner faces 2-seed Memphis in the second round.