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UCF’s Offense Goes Historically Cold at #5 Houston

Knights shot just 15% from field in 57-42 Loss

NCAA Basketball: Central Florida at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The UCF Knights struggled to find any offense on Saturday in Houston as the Knights were held to season lows in points and field goal percentage and fell to #5 Houston 57-42.

The Cougars improved to 16-2 on the season and 3-2 in conference while the Knights dropped to 11-6 overall and 2-3 in the Big 12.

So what went wrong? Many things, all of which I break down, as well as some positives moving forward, in my four takeaways.

1. UCF’s Offense Shut Down by Houston Defense

The Knights simply struggled to put the ball in the basket. UCF shot a Big 12 record-low 15.9% from the field, making only seven shots from the floor for the whole game.

UCF’s 42 points are tied for 6th-fewest in program history. But it’s no surprise UCF‘s offense struggled against the Cougars' defense, which ranks best in the NCAA in points allowed per game (51) and FG% defense (35%).

Get this: UCF did not hit a two-point basket until under ten minutes left in the second half! UCF could not get many easy baskets, scoring only 9 fast break points and 5 points off 8 Houston turnovers.

2. Houston Dominated the Paint

Houston outscored UCF 24-6 in the paint while blocking 7 UCF shots, compared to just 3 blocks for the Knights. The six paint points are a season low. The Knights did not score from the paint until halfway through the second half.

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap.

3. Houston Backcourt Was Better

NCAA Basketball: Central Florida at Houston
Houston Cougars guard Ramon Walker Jr. (3) attempts to steal the ball away from UCF Knights guard Darius Johnson (3) during the second half at Fertitta Center.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Cougars’ backcourt duo of Jamal Shead and L.J. Cryer outscored the Knights’ duo of Darius Johnson and Jaylin Sellers 26-7, and posted a better assist-to-turnover ratio (7/3 to 4/7).

Shead and Cryer are one of if not the best backcourt in the Big 12, as they impact the game on both ends of the court, which showed against Johnson and Sellers. Shead and Cryer contributed to UCF’s 15 turnovers as each had four steals in the game.

4. Texas Two-Step Was a Success

Despite the setback at Houston, this week was a successful week for the Knights. They got a split in the two-game road trip with a win at Texas on Wednesday night, which looks even better after the Longhorns beat #9 Baylor ths weekend.

Even in the loss to Houston, the Knights’ defense held the Cougars to a season-low 57 points on 34% shooting, which is their 2nd-lowest of the season.

UCF’s NET Ranking, which was at 69 as of Saturday, will improve despite the loss. Losing to Houston in the American was a rare resume-building opportunity because it was a bigger loss than losing to Houston in the Big 12, as the Knights still have ten games against top-50 teams with nine of those games considered “Quad 1 games”. To put that in perspective, UCF had nine Quad 1 American Conference games the last two seasons combined.

Big game ahead for UCF as they return home on Tuesday to host West Virginia, who like UCF is coming off an upset win at home over #3 Kansas.