Men’s Basketball Outlasts Memphis in 2OT Thriller

Box Score

The Knights overcame.
A visiting conference opponent enjoying an equally strong 12-4 start. A blown 13-point first-half lead. Sixteen unanswered points allowed to begin the second half. A 14-point deficit. Freshman phenom Taylor Hendricks fouling out in the waning minutes of regulation.
The Knights overcame. Nothing could, or would, slow Johnny Dawkins' UCF men's basketball team Wednesday night, as Orlando's Hometown Team downed the visiting Memphis Tigers in a double-overtime thriller, 107-104, in front of a packed Addition Financial Arena in arguably the team's gutsiest performance of the season thus far.
"Chaotic," said senior guard C.J. Kelly of the evening. "It was really wild, back-and-forth. You can't script this type of game, it was really unexpected."
Trailing 74-65 with five minutes remaining in regulation, the Knights (13-4, 4-1 AAC) never gave in. Ithiel Horton, who would finish with a team-leading 30 points, brought UCF to within nine with a layup that would prove to pave the Knights' way to overtime. Redshirt junior guard Tyem Freeman added two more points, and Horton piled on two more free throws.
It was then Brandon Suggs' turn, with a layup of his own, and then Hendricks with two more points. Even two more Tigers (12-5, 2-2 AAC) free throws that pushed the score to 78-73 in the final minute couldn't faze the Knights. Kelly drilled two more free throws, and following a timely Memphis turnover, Horton was nails beyond the arc with a game-tying triple, his third of an eventual five, to send the contest to an extra frame tied at 78.
"Our guys have been in these situations before," Dawkins said. "This was our [fourth] overtime, a double-overtime game, so we've been in this situation where we've been down in the second half and had to make runs. I was just telling our guys, 'We've been here before, let's just keep our composure, let's keep playing possession by possession, and let's try to work our way back into the ballgame."
Both squads traded pairs of free throws until P.J. Edwards hit a 2-point jump shot and Horton knocked down another 3-pointer, but five more quick points from the Tigers forced the second overtime.
"Our strength is in our numbers," Kelly added. "We're a resilient team and we fight. We feel like we're never out of a game; I think that causes us sometimes to be in dogfights because we're never out of a game. So once we get that mindset, those last three minutes, we play like that the whole game, that'll take us to another level."
Horton retained command in the second overtime, opening with five points including his fifth 3-pointer, his second such game this season. Edwards, who entered the game with a combined four points in seven appearances, drained the first of his two triples in double-overtime, and five UCF free throws down the stretch finally sealed the 3-point win, the Knights' fifth in their last six home tilts against Memphis.
Horton, fresh off a 21-point performance in the team's Sunday win over SMU, added 30 more Wednesday evening that fell one point shy of tying his career-high 31-point day with Delaware on Jan. 10, 2019.
"We didn't see any panic, I didn't think we rushed a lot, and we just worked our way back, culminating in a really good shot with Ithiel," Dawkins continued.
Ignited by a Lahat Thioune block just 24 seconds into the contest that elicited a thunderous roar from a packed house, the Knights rode the electricity and rocketed out to an early 21-9 edge over the Tigers.
Ithiel Horton drew a shooting foul on his first layup attempt and converted the try from the line for UCF's first three points before Jayhlon Young drained the first of seven Knights triples in the opening 20 minutes.
Suggs kept the pressure on Memphis with four straight made free throws before Horton and Suggs again forced a roar from the near-sold-out crowd. The duo drilled three consecutive 3-point shots, two of which came from the former, to give the Knights a 19-6 lead.
Hendricks, winner of five AAC Rookie of the Week honors thus far, quickly added his first two points to push the Knights' advantage to 21-9 with just over 12 minutes left in the half before the Tigers clawed their way back into the affairs.
The visitors climbed all the way back, compiling a 23-6 run to take their first lead of the game, 25-24, with just over seven minutes remaining, but five converted free throws and triples courtesy of Hendricks and Kelly pushed the Knights to a 42-40 halftime lead.
Memphis roared out of the break with 16 unanswered points, but the Knights would not be denied. Suggs hit the first of four quick triples, followed by Hendricks, Kelly and Young before UCF completed its late second-half comeback.
The Knights totaled seven triples in the first half alone, and their 16 on the night was tied for the most in program history, equaling the 2004 Knights' 16 3-pointers on Feb. 28, 2004. The team's 107 points also marked the most since its 115-61 win over West Florida on Nov. 12, 2010.
One game removed from snagging 38 rebounds against SMU, the Knights grabbed 41 more Wednesday evening as well, including 17 on the offensive side and 24 more on the defensive end. UCF entered the evening with an average rebounding margin of +5.1, which ranked 59th in the country.
UCF will have little respite before its next contest, as the Knights are now slated to begin a two-game road trip against the Tulane Green Wave, winners of 11 of their first 16 games. Tipoff from New Orleans is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.