After back-to-back losses that saw them blow double-digit leads, the UCF Knights men’s basketball team returned to Addition Financial Arena needing a win. Doing so would not be easy, as in their way was the #23 Oklahoma Sooners. But in a shocker, the Knights would never trail once during the game, and earn a 74-63 win over the Sooners.
How did the Knights manage to stay ahead of a ranked team? Let’s go over the key points.
Getting to the Line
The Knights didn’t have the best shooting performance, shooting a combined 41.7%, So how did they manage to score so many points?
Easy: they did the exact opposite of what they did against Baylor. They got to the free-throw line and they hit their shots.
The Knights took 32 free throws and hit 28 of them. Making 87.5% of your shots after a game that saw them make only one free throw on seven attempts is a pretty good improvement.
The player who showed the importance of getting to the line was the Knights’ leading scorer, Jaylin Sellers. Sellers, who dropped 20 points, was only three-for-ten from the floor, but he made up for that by going 13/14 at the line.
After the game, Sellers said he had discussed with his coaches the importance of finding other ways to get points.
“The ball’s not gonna go in every night,” Sellers said. “But just being able to find other ways to score the ball, that was good for me.”
The Knights also made up for their shooting struggles by playing strong defense. holding the ranked Sooners, whose scoring average coming in was 78.3 points per game, to just 63.
The Knights also held the Sooners to 37% shooting, and caused chaos on the defensive end with 33 rebounds, 12 steals, nine blocks, and 15 forced turnovers.
Key to the defense in this game was Shemarri Allen, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury, but set the tone with eight rebounds, two blocks, and two steals.
Allen credited the team’s perforce to their one-play-at-a-time mindset.
“That was a great team defense,” Allen said. “We just stayed locked in the whole 40 minutes. Our main focus was just like, ‘One stop at a time, one stop at a time.’”
The catalyst for the Knights’ high-energy performance was the sold-out crowd of 9,387 fans, the fifth-biggest in program history. They were loud all game and the team built off it.
You could see this when the Knights slapped the floor in unison before key defensive possessions, which got the crowd going:
That energy resulted in UCF scoring 17 fast-break points.
Sooners head coach Porter Moser said his team got overwhelmed by the Knights’ energy.
“Just from the jump, it was a step behind on both ends,” Moser said.
Congratulations must go to head coach Johnny Dawkins, who now has 300 career wins as a head coach.
In the postgame press conference, as well as throughout the season, all of the Knight players have talked about their love for Coach Dawkins as a teacher both on and off the court. Players like Sellers say they love him for “believing in them.” Opposing coaches have said Dawkins brings respect to the Knights’ program. Kansas’ head coach Bill Self said that Dawkins brings class to UCF.
But in a testament to Dawkins, when asked how he felt in the postgame, he chose to talk about his players rather than himself when he simply said the thing he was most happy for was that the pressure was no longer on his players.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Dawkins said. “One excuse I don't want that kind of pressure on our team, thinking that they got to win 300 for me.”
The Knights will have a week off before traveling to Texas Tech to take on the #15 Red Raiders on February 10th. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.