By Andrew Cherico
Orlando FL - UCF’s very own basketball team is 10 games through non-conference play with a 7-3 record after recording their 7thwin of the season against Maine after taking a lead in the first half and finishing it in blowout fashion 71-54. This win was much needed after their loss to Ole Miss in heartbreaking fashion going down to the last possession.
After getting the opportunity to speak with Knights Head Coach Johnny Dawkins, he said, “I’m really proud of our guys... It was a good week for us… We were sitting on a loss for the last 7 days straight and I thought our guys responded how you wanted to see them respond.”
With the win against Maine, there are only 2 more non-conference games left Florida A&M and Bethune both at home. Conference play is a few weeks away starting January 6th on the road against Kansas St on the road. Conference play this semester is going to be a very tough test as the BIG 12 is widely known as the best basketball conference in the nation.
Coach Dawkins speaks on preparing for UCF’s remaining non-conference play as well as conference play these upcoming weeks “We’ll send our guys home to spend the holidays it’s family time… We’re going to refocus and start preparing for our next opponent followed by getting ready for league play… These next few days just keep getting healthy, keep getting better”
So far through the season, the knights have had three tough losses one to an opponent that was marked a win on many people's predictions which was the surprise loss to Stetson, when UCF lost 85-82 the other two losses come from Miami and Ole Miss.
This season Junior transfer guard from Ball-State Jaylin Sellers has emerged as the team's best player averaging a close 19 points per game currently sitting at 18.9 points per game which is among the best in the nation. He has scored 20 points or more in 4 out of the 10 games played and scored a career-high 34 points in the loss to Stetson.
Veteran Point Guard Darius Johnson has also contributed a high efficiency as of late after previously struggling with field goal percentage and turnovers as he has been the leading scorer for the Knights the past 2 games.
Due to the help of Ibrahima Diallo and Omar Payne, the Knights are amongst the nation’s leaders averaging 5.7 blocks per game which has solidified UCF as one of the better interior defenders in the BIG 12 but UCF has struggled with perimeter defense all season.
Overall, The Knights look to finish strong winning out the rest of the preseason as they prepare for conference play, many view that this Knight team may finish near the bottom of the BIG 12 standings, if they play together as a unit which can change but only time can tell.
How do you think the Knights will do come conference play? Will they play as expected or will they surprise the world? We’ll find out more and I’ll see you on the sidelines!