Men's Hoops Visits No. 3 Houston for New Year's Eve Clash

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ORLANDO – The UCF men's basketball team is set for its first American Athletic Confernce road test of the season as the Knights travel to face No. 3 Houston on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.

The Knights are 1-0 in conference play for the third consecutive season and for the fifth time in head coach Johnny Dawkins' seven-year tenure. UCF topped Wichita State 52-45 at home on Wednesday in a defensive showdown to earn the perfect start. It was the second consecutive time that the Knights have beat the Shockers after dropping the previous eight meetings. The Black and Gold never trailed in the game, doing so for the second straight game after not trailing to Stetson in their 73-58 win over the Hatters on Dec. 21.

Darius Johnson led the way on the stat sheet against Wichita State, scoring 15 points while recording four steals, just two behind a season and career high. He also led the team in minutes, posting a season-high 37:53 mark. A handful of Knights were close to cracking double digits in the points column as Taylor Hendricks and Brandon Suggs had nine while C.J. Kelly tallied eight.

Saturday's contest with the Cougars will feature the conference's two top defenses as well as UCF's top-ranked three-point percentage and Houston's top three-point percentage defense when compared to other conference teams. The Cougars have allowed just 49.9 points per game to opponents, a mark that is not only first in the conference, but first in the nation. The Knights have the 16th ranked scoring defense in the country, allowing 59.6 points a contest. Despite shooting an uncharacteristic 5-for-22 from three-point land their last time out, the Black and Gold lead the conference in three-point percentage with 36.7% clip. Houston does well defending the three ball, holding opponents to a 23.7 mark, ranking second in the nation.

The contest will also feature two of The American's top freshman. Hendricks has collected four of the league's rookie of the week honors while Houston's Jarace Walker has earned two. To this point, Hendricks has averaged 14.8 points per game along with 6.8 rebounds a contest. Walker has tallied 9.3 points a game and 6.1 rebounds. Hendricks has an edge in three-point shooting over Walker, posting a 44.4% clip from beyond the arc while Houston's top rookie boasts 38.1% mark.

Houston enters the weekend with a 13-1 record with their lone loss coming at the hands of No. 8/10 Alabama. The Cougars are ranked third in the country in both the AP and Coaches polls while being ranked No. 1 in the NCAA NET, KenPom.com efficiency margin and ESPN BPI through Dec. 29 games. UCF is ranked 63rd in the NCAA NET, 55th in KenPom and 57th in ESPN BPI.

Houston's Jamal Shead is one of just six players in the top-22 nationally in assists per game and assist to turnover ratio, with marks of 5.6 (22nd nationally) and 3.12 (20th nationally) respectively. Marcus Sasser leads the Cougars in scoring, averaging 15.7 points a game. While he is the only member of Houston's squad to be in double figures, three are close with Tramon Mark and J'Wan Roberts both averaging 9.4 and Walker averaging 9.3 points a contest.

The Knights are looking to snap a five-game losing skid against the Cougars, with the last UCF win coming at Houston on Mar. 2, 2019, a 69-64 win behind enemy lines.

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