Men's Hoops Earn Statement Road Win at Ole Miss

Stats (PDF)

OXFORD, Miss. – The UCF men's basketball team came out of the pre-game locker room on fire, scoring the first 21 points of the game en route to earning a 72-61 victory on the road against Ole Miss, improving to 8-2 on the year.

C.J. Kelly led the Knights in scoring, netting 20 points for the second time this season. He had nine rebounds, a season high and two short of a career high. He was one board short of becoming the second Knights player this season to tally a double-double. Taylor Hendricks remains the only member of the Black and Gold to accomplish the feat. He posted 17 points, 11 of them in the second half, as he has now scored 15 or more points in eight of UCF's 10 games.

"Anytime you go on the road and play a team of this caliber it's going to be tough," said head coach Johnny Dawkins. "You don't expect to go in and blow teams out on the road, especially this caliber of a team. We kept our composure, which is something we talked about before the game. We wanted to make sure we didn't get lost in their runs and fight out of those runs and I feel like we did that."

The build up to UCF's 21-0 start was a well-rounded one, filled with excellent defensive pressure from the Black and Gold to force several Ole Miss missed shots. The Knights won the jump ball, a trend in which they're now 7-0 when they do. Ole Miss couldn't sink their first two shots before Hendricks rejected a layup attempt. Another block by Hendricks and four Rebel turnovers, along with a total of nine missed shots and two missed free throws occurred before Ole Miss was able to make a bucket.

Ithiel Horton led the way for the Knights on the stat sheet during the 21-0 run, scoring a third of UCF's points. Hendricks and Michael Durr contributed four points each while Darius Johnson, C.J. Kelly and Lahat Thioune each made a basket in the process.

Ole Miss didn't score for the first eight minutes of the contest, as Matthew Murrell made a three-pointer to get Ole Miss on the board.

Nobody scored for the next three-plus minutes, somewhat negating the momentum that UCF had built after their opening run.

The Rebels began to creep back into the ballgame and were able to piece together an 11-0 run in the final 2:39 before halftime. The Knights were unable to add a point to the board in the final 3:05 of the first as Ole Miss pulled to within 10 at the break with a score of 36-26.

The Knights improved to 7-0 when leading at the half with Wednesday's win. Ole Miss tried its hardest to break that unbeaten trend, nearly coming all the way back to chop the UCF lead to just four points midway through the second half. The Black and Gold slowly pushed the lead back to double digits, taking a 60-50 lead with eight minutes to go. After a pair of traded buckets, Hendricks hit a no-hesitation three-pointer to put the Knights up 13.

Kelly and Hendricks emerged in the second half to help ice the game. Kelly scored 16 of his 20 points after the break while Hendricks sunk 11 of his 17 points in the final 20 minutes of play. The Knights scored zero bench points in the final half of play and just a total of six on the night. It was the first time this year that an opponent outscored UCF's bench.

Four of UCF's five starters were in double figures on the night, with Durr coming close to making it all five, registering eight points and six rebounds on the stat sheet. The Knights have only had one game this season in which five players score double digit points; that was opening night against UNC Asheville.

The Knights stayed on trend when it comes to points per game, posting 72 on the night while averaging 71.7 on the season entering the evening. The same can be said on the defensive side, as UCF entered the night holding opponents to 60.3 points per game. The Black and Gold held the Rebels to an uncharacteristic 61 points after they entered Wednesday averaging 72.3 points a game.

The victory is UCF's first over Ole Miss in program history, improving upon a previously 0-3 record. The two sides hadn't met since Jan. 5, 2010 when UCF was handed a 28-point loss to the then-No. 14 ranked Rebels. The Knights handed Ole Miss their first home loss of the season, tarnishing what was a perfect 5-0 start in Oxford.

The Knights will face another SEC opponent as they head to Sunrise, Florida, to face Missouri in the AutoNation Orange Bowl Basketball Classic. The contest will tip off at noon on Saturday inside FLA Live Arena. Missouri will enter the contest with a record of 9-1.

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