New-Look UCF Men Miss Chance Against Asheville

ORLANDO—UCF men's basketball fans may have needed a program to identify all the new Knights Monday night at Addition Financial Arena.
With six transfers and five true freshmen on the 2022-23 roster there's an all-new look to UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins' squad. A handful of those transfers played prominent roles in the Knights' 98-95 season-opening double-overtime loss to UNC Asheville—with prominent returnees C.J. Walker and Darius Johnson in street clothes due to injury.
But a spectacular debut by UCF freshman Taylor Hendricks (23 points, five rebounds), plus the transfer contributions--20 points from C.J. Kelly (UMass), 16 from Brandon Suggs (ECU), 12 and nine rebounds from Ithiel Horton (Pitt), 11 from Michael Durr (South Florida/Indiana) and eight from Jayhlon Young (Baton Rouge C.C.)--weren't quite enough.
Asheville senior forward Drew Pember (Big South Conference preseason player of the year) led all scorers with 40 points before fouling out with 2:38 left in the first overtime and the score tied at 83.
Said Dawkins, "It was a heck of a basketball game by both teams. We have to get better at our end and it starts at the defensive end--we have to be better than that. I was disappointed at the way we defended most of the night. That's not who we are and that's' not who we've been in the preseason."
"We didn't execute as well coming down the stretch and turned it over a couple of times. We weren't as connected and it gave them some opportunities. We were up and didn't seize it at the end."
Hendricks gave the Knights their first lead with 16:28 left with a bucket to make it 39-38 for UCF. Dawkins' unit built a 55-47 advantage and led by as many as 10 at 71-61 with 3:15 to go.
After a Hendricks bucket with 17 seconds to go, Pember's free throws at :07.3 left it tied at 76 as regulation ended.
Hendricks needed another hoop with five seconds left in the first overtime to tie it at 86.
"He showed a little bit of who he is," said Dawkins. "I like our group overall—they compete."
The Knights led 93-90 with 1:43 left in the second extra period—but Fletcher Abee's three with 55 seconds put the visitors ahead for good.
The Bulldogs, 17-15 a season ago and picked third this year in the Big South Conference preseason poll, also got 20 points from Tajion Jones. Pember and Jones each nailed four threes.
The Knights overcame a sluggish start—missing 10 of their first 13 shots, including seven in a row and eight of nine over one stretch. Asheville built an early nine-point advantage at 16-7—with senior forward Drew Pember notching 10 of those (he finished the half with 17 points and six rebounds). The home team scored seven straight to pull within 23-21 at the 7:59 stop.
Suggs paved UCF in that opening period with 12 points (he had 10 of his team's first 18 points), while Hendricks looked increasingly comfortable in contributing 10. His three-point play late enabled the Knights to pull within a single point at 34-33. UNC then led 36-33 at the break.
Whose Got Next? UCF continues its three-game season-opening homestand Friday against Florida State (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+). The Knights play seven of their first nine overall at home.