Tough. After blowing a lead to Cincinnati on Saturday, the UCF Knights Men’s Basketball team returned to Addition Financial Arena and despite leading for the first 30:58 of the game, the Knights would end up losing to the #18 Baylor Bears 77-69.
But how did this happen? What made the Knights lose the lead they held for the majority of the game? Let’s go over the key points.
In a close game like this, every point counts. That’s why it is so key to get to the line and then make your free throws. The Bears did that. The Knights did not.
The Bears shot 25 free throws and made 20. The Knights on the other hand were at the line only seven times and made only one. If the Knights make all seven, it’s not hard to imagine that Baylor wouldn’t have been able to run away with it at the end as they did.
The Knights were in the bonus with about 12 minutes left in the game. Jaylin Sellers said that he felt that they should have used that to their advantage more.
“It definitely was a missed opportunity,” Sellers said. “We gotta be able to capitalize on those opportunities. We didn’t do that.”
We can debate whether or not the referees were right in the way they called this game. I’m not one who can claim if they did or didn’t do a good job. What I can do is share facts. And the fact is the Knights were called for several crucial fouls that were key in helping the Bears get back in the game and then kept the Knights from being able to come back.
The first play happened with a little over nine minutes left in the game. While going for a rebound, Ibrahima Diallo was called for a foul after bumping into a Baylor player. however, after some discussion, that call was changed to a flagrant foul. Baylor was awarded two free throws, which they made, and then were given possession, which they scored on. At that point, the Knights were holding onto a decent lead and the game was back and forth. The Bears scoring four points on a single position was the game’s turning point and really where things started to go downhill for the Knights.
The second call came with less than two minutes remaining in the game. The Knights were trailing, but Marchelus Avery had hit a three to get them within six points. The Knights proceeded to play excellent defense that looked like it would result in Baylor getting called for a shot clock violation. However, with one second left Baylor threw up a desperation three, and a foul was called on Darius Johnson. Baylor would only make one of the three free throws, but that one made it a three-possession game with little time left and the Knights weren’t able to respond.
After this game, the Knights’ head coach Johnny Dawkins said that he acknowledged this was a tough call that had a clear effect on his team.
“You hate to see that kind of be a call that sends your man to the line for three free throws in a one, two-possession ball game,” Dawkins said.
Right or wrong, Baylor took advantage of the opportunities to steal momentum away from the Knights.
Baylor’s Defensive Adjustments
The Bears would take the lead in the final six minutes of the game and then began to play zone defense, which the Knights struggled with. In those six minutes, there was a five-minute stretch where Baylor went on a 12-2 scoring run.
After the game, Johnson said the Knights’ struggles were due to not facing a defense like the Bears before.
“We haven’t really faced a team that mixes their defense up as much as them, so I felt that was something a little bit new to us,” Johnson said.
There were some positive things to take away from this game.
First of all, Johnson was incredible. After a few games where he has even said he wasn’t at his best, he exploded tonight. He scored 23 points and had 10 assists in the third double-double of his career.
Bears head coach Scott Drew said he “looked like the best player in college basketball.”
The Knights shot the ball well. They made 54% of their shots and made 51.9% of their three-pointers.
But the biggest positive is that the Knights took the 18th-ranked team in the country to their limit despite missing two starters in C.J. Walker and Shemarri Allen.
The Knights will be back home on Saturday before a sold-out crowd to face the #23 Oklahoma Sooners. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.